Study Probes Child, Teen Brains
Preteen Brain Performs at Adult Level; Few Boy/Girl Differences
May 18, 2007 -- How do child and teen brains work? An ambitious U.S. study
is trying to find out -- and the first results already are in.
The study enrolls only healthy children from birth to age 18. The kids
undergo intensive neurological and psychological tests, as well as MRI brain
None of the kids will be followed for more than four years. But because the
study enrolls a diverse sample of kids, it is giving researchers an
unprecedented look at how kids' brains and minds develop.
The early results contain several surprises:
- By age 11 or 12, a child's mental and motor skills approach adult
- Kids undergo rapid mental development from ages 6 to 10.
- Mental development drops off sharply during the teen years, suggesting that
teenage development shifts from acquiring new skills to integrating what
already has been learned.
- There were some differences between boys and girls but not as many as
previously thought. There were no sex differences in verbal ability or math
As expected, children from lower-income families performed less well than
other children in IQ tests and social behaviors. But these healthy,
low-income-family kids did much better than expected. This suggests that health
disparities have a major impact on the gap in mental function seen in
"As we follow these children over time, we will have a better
understanding of what's happening," study researcher Deborah Waber, PhD, of
Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, says in a news
Vastly more information will become available as the study progresses.
Researchers will then be able to see how individuals develop over time. And
they hope to be able to link skill acquisition to specific changes in the
When finished, the study should greatly expand scientific understanding of
normal human neuropsychological development.
Waber and colleagues report their findings in the current online issue of
the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.