How does the brain change during teenage?

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How does the brain change during teenage?
« on: 25/01/2010 13:30:03 »
M.Lishinsky  asked the Naked Scientists:
I have just come across the information that teenagers lose brain cells beginning at around age 12.

That synaptic connections that were formed in early life which are no longer relevant for life as a teen, get erased...

1 - what happens to them ?
2 - is this true ?
3 - Does this contribute to teen angst re: well, if my memories looking back are like swiss cheese perhaps this contributes to teen angst along with the hormones.
 Seems like this brain erasure stage would lead to teens being teens .. Yes ? No ?

Is there any research being done in this area .

Listen daily - keep it up.
Michael from the Oregon Mountains

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 25/01/2010 13:30:03 by _system »


Offline Pwee

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How does the brain change during teenage?
« Reply #1 on: 26/01/2010 13:33:40 »
A bit counterintuitive at first glance, but that's the case.

People often think that more brain cells/more connections mean more "brain power", more intelligence, but the brain doesn't work that way. You have to understand the basics of a connectionist network first and basic Hebbian principles.

Donald Olding Hebb wanted to described learning on the neuronal level.
When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A's efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased
"Neurons that fire together wire together." Later, we found out that this process not only works this way, but the other way around too, so if a connection is not in use for a long time, it will degrade or lose it's efficiency. We also know that this can take place not only with neurons directly near each other, but neurons furher apart but still connected.

So basically we start out with an enormous amount of connections between neurons, but this is not really efficient. Through our life, we keep losing the unnecessary connections and keep strengthening the useful ones, so this way our brain activity is ever more efficient.

With a simple analogy: you have to deliver a message from your camp to another camp. At firs, you can send out 100 runners/curriers from your camp, so that the information reaches it's target, but as time passes, you notice that the messages were always delivered first by the same 5 from the 100 the past 10 years, so why bother next time with the other 95 runners, when the 5 fastest and most efficient ones are enough.

If you are interested in how our millions of brain cells work together, you can find more information with the Connectionism search term, and the research and practical applications by the Artificial neural networks  search term.