Washington, March 8 : A study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that a brain network linked to introspection - such as forming the self-image or understanding the motivations of others - happens to be less intricate and well-connected in children as compared to adults.
Damien A. Fair, a postgraduate student who led the study, compared functional connectivity in 13 brain regions linked to the default network in children ages seven to nine and adults ages 21 to 31.
"The difference between children and adults is profound. In a graph depicting the strength of connections between the brain regions we studied, children's minds have just a few connections between some regions, while the adult brains have a web-like mesh of many different interconnecting links involving all the regions," Fair says.
The research team used a new technique called resting-state functional connectivity MRI to identify brain networks and analyse their functions.
Dr. Bradley L. Schlaggar, an associate professor in whose guidance Fair carried out the study, says that he is now planning to study how the brain networks interact during development and in the mature brain.
He is also planning to study how network functions differ in patients with brain injuries and conditions such as autism.
"Autism spectrum disorder first manifests earlier than the time period we were studying," Schlaggar says.
"But many of the functions it affects have been associated with the default network, so we're eager to see if analysis of this network and its development can give us new insights into autism," he adds.
The results of the current appear online this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.