Childhood’s end: ADHD, autism and schizophrenia tied to stronger inhibitory interactions in adolescent prefrontal cortex
PostedMarch 17, 2014
Key cognitive functions such as working memory (which combines temporary storage and manipulation of information) and executive function(a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action) are associated with the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Unlike other brain regions, the prefrontal cortex does not mature until early adulthood, with the most pronounced changes being seen between its peripubertal (onset of puberty) and postpubertal developmental states. Moreover, this maturation period is correlated with cognitive maturation – but the physical neuronal changes during this transition have remained for the most part unknown. Recently, however, scientists at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC recorded and compared prefrontal cortical activity peripubertal and adult monkeys.
The researchers found that compared with adults, peripubertal monkeys showed lower connectivity due to stronger inhibitory interactions, suggesting that intrinsic (or resting state) inhibitory connections – that is, inhibitory neural connections that are active in the absence of any particular task – decline with maturation. The scientists then concluded that prefrontal intrinsic connectivity changes are a possible substrate for cognitive maturation.