Brain scans of teens sizing each other up reveal an emotion circuit activating more in girls as they grow older, but not in boys.
The study by Daniel Pine, M.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of National Institutes of Health, and colleagues, shows how emotion circuitry diverges in the male and female brain during a developmental stage in which girls are at increased risk for developing mood and anxiety disorders.
"During this time of heightened sensitivity to interpersonal stress and peers' perceptions, girls are becoming increasingly preoccupied with how individual peers view them, while boys tend to become more focused on their status within group pecking orders," explained Pine. "However, in the study, the prospect of interacting with peers activated brain circuitry involved in approaching others, rather than circuitry responsible for withdrawal and fear, which is associated with anxiety and depression."
Pine, Amanda Guyer, Ph.D., Eric Nelson, Ph.D., and colleagues at NIMH and Georgia State University, report on one of the first studies to reveal the workings of the teen brain in a simulated real-world social interaction, in the July, 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.
Thirty-four psychiatrically healthy males and females, aged 9 to 17, were ostensibly participating in a study of teenagers' communications via Internet chat rooms. They were told that after an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan, which visualizes brain activity, they would chat online with another teen from a collaborating study site. Each participant was asked to rate his or her interest in communicating with each of 40 teens presented on a computer screen, so they could be matched with a high interest participant (see picture below).Two weeks later, the teens viewed the same faces while in an fMRI scanner. But this time they were asked to instead rate how interested they surmised each of the other prospective chatters would be in interacting with them.
Although the faces were selected by the researchers for their happy expressions, their attractiveness was random, so that they appeared to be a mix of typical peers encountered by teens.
As expected, the teen participants deemed the same faces they initially chose as high interest to be the peers most interested in interacting with them. Older participants tended to choose more faces of the opposite sex than younger ones. When they appraised anticipated interest from peers of high interest compared with low interest, older females showed more brain activity than younger females in circuitry that processes social emotion.
"This developmental shift suggested a change in socio-emotional calculus from avoidance to approach," noted Pine. The circuit is made up of the nucleus accumbens (reward and motivation), hypothalamus (hormonal activation), hippocampus (social memory) and insula (visceral/subjective feelings).
By contrast, males showed little change in the activity of most of these circuit areas with age, except for a decrease in activation of the insula. This may reflect a waning of interpersonal emotional ties over time in teenage males, as they shift their interest to groups, suggest Pine and colleagues.
"In females, absence of activation in areas associated with mood and anxiety disorders, such as the amygdala, suggests that emotional responses to peers may be driven more by a brain network related to approach than to one related to fear and withdrawal," said Pine. "This reflects resilience to psychosocial stress among healthy female adolescents during this vulnerable period."
Reference: Probing the neural correlates of anticipated peer evaluation in adolescence. Guyer AE, McClure-Tone EB, Shiffrin ND, Pine DS, Nelson EE. July 2009, Child Development.
The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the www.nimh.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the www.nih.gov .
Jules Asher | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Brain > Child Development > End User Development > Health > Hippocampus > Hypothalamus > NIH > NIMH > Nucleus accumbens > Pine > Social Emotion > anxiety disorders > contrasts in brain circuit > fMRI > functional magnetic resonance imaging > hormonal activation > reward and motivation > social memory > visceral/subjective feelings
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
26.10.2016 | Awards Funding
26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering