Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Brain biology tied to social reorientation during entry to adolescence

24.04.2013
fMRI shows unique brain regions are increasingly devoted to social self-evaluations during puberty

A specific region of the brain is in play when children consider their identity and social status as they transition into adolescence -- that often-turbulent time of reaching puberty and entering middle school, says a University of Oregon psychologist.

In a study of 27 neurologically typical children who underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at ages 10 and 13, activity in the brain's ventromedial prefrontal cortex increased dramatically when the subjects responded to questions about how they view themselves.

The findings, published in the April 24 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, confirm previous findings that specific brain networks support self-evaluations in the growing brain, but, more importantly, provide evidence that basic biology may well drive some of these changes, says Jennifer H. Pfeifer, professor of psychology and director of the psychology department's Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab.

"This is a longitudinal fMRI study, which is still relatively uncommon," Pfeifer said. "It suggests a link between neural responses during self-evaluative processing in the social domain, and pubertal development. This provides a rare piece of empirical evidence in humans, rather than animal models, that supports the common theory that adolescents are biologically driven to go through a social reorientation."

Participants were scanned for about seven minutes at each visit. They responded to a series of attributes tied to social or academic domains -- social ones such as "I am popular" or "I wish I had more friends" and academic ones such as "I like to read just for fun" or "Writing is so boring." Social and academic evaluations were made about both the self and a familiar fictional character, Harry Potter.

In previous research, Pfeifer had found that a more dorsal region of the medial prefrontal cortex was more responsive in 10-year-old children during self-evaluations, when they were compared to adults. The new study, she said, provides a more detailed picture of how the brain supports self-development by looking at change within individuals.

The fMRI analyses found it was primarily the social self-evaluations that triggered significant increases over time in blood-oxygen levels, which fMRI detects, in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex. Additionally, these increases were strongest in children who experienced the most pubertal development over the three-year study period, for both girls and boys. Increases during academic self-evaluations were at best marginal. Whole-brain analyses found no other areas of the brain had significant increases or decreases in activity related to pubertal development.

"Neural changes in the social domain were more robust," Pfeifer said. "Increased responses in this one region of the brain from age 10 to 13 were very evident in social self-evaluations, but not academic ones. This pattern is consistent with the enormous importance that most children entering adolescence place on their peer relationships and social status, compared to the relatively diminished value often associated with academics during this transition."

In youth with autism spectrum disorders, this specialized response in ventral medial prefrontal cortex is missing, she added, citing a paper she co-authored in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and a complementary study led by Michael V. Lombardo, University of Cambridge, in the February 2010 issue of the journal Brain. The absence of this typical effect, Pfeifer said, might be related to the challenges these individuals often face in both self-understanding and social relations.

"Dr. Pfeifer's research examining self-evaluations during adolescence adds significantly to the intricate puzzle of this turbulent age period," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the graduate school. "Researchers at the University of Oregon are piecing together how both biology and the environment dynamically and interactively support healthy social development."

National Institutes of Health grants F31MH075299, L40HD059442 and L40MH087356 to Pfeifer primarily funded the research. Other support came from the Santa Fe Institute Consortium, Brain Mapping Medical Research Organization, Brain Mapping Support Foundation, Pierson-Lovelace Foundation, Ahmanson Foundation, Tamkin Foundation, Jennifer Jones-Simon Foundation, Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation, Robson Family, William M. and Linda R. Dietel Philanthropic Fund at the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, Northstar Fund and the NIH National Center for Research Resources (grants RR12169, RR13642 and RR00865).

Co-authors with Pfeifer on the new study in the Journal of Neuroscience were: UO psychology graduate students Lauren E. Kahn, Junaid S. Merchant and Shannon J. Peake; Kim Veroude, a visiting researcher and graduate student from VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Carrie L. Masten of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee; Matthew D. Lieberman of the University of California, Los Angeles; John C. Mazziotta, director of the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center; and Mirella Dapretto of the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center and UCLA Center for Culture, Brain & Development.

About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

Source: Jennifer H. Pfeifer, assistant professor of psychology, 541-346-1984, jpfeifer@uoregon.edu

Links:

Pfeifer faculty page: http://psychweb.uoregon.edu/people/pfeifer-jennifer
Psychology Department: http://psychweb.uoregon.edu/
Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab: http://dsn.uoregon.edu/
Follow UO Science on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/UniversityOfOregonScience
UO Science on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UO_Research
More UO Science/Research News: http://uoresearch.uoregon.edu
Note: The University of Oregon is equipped with an on-campus television studio with satellite uplink capacity, and a radio studio with an ISDN phone line for broadcast-quality radio interviews. Call the Media Contact above to begin the process.

Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uoregon.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A novel socio-ecological approach helps identifying suitable wolf habitats
17.02.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht New, ultra-flexible probes form reliable, scar-free integration with the brain
16.02.2017 | University of Texas at Austin

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>