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      Trajectories of brain development: point of vulnerability or window of opportunity?

      Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews

      Elsevier BV

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          The adolescent brain and age-related behavioral manifestations.

          To successfully negotiate the developmental transition between youth and adulthood, adolescents must maneuver this often stressful period while acquiring skills necessary for independence. Certain behavioral features, including age-related increases in social behavior and risk-taking/novelty-seeking, are common among adolescents of diverse mammalian species and may aid in this process. Reduced positive incentive values from stimuli may lead adolescents to pursue new appetitive reinforcers through drug use and other risk-taking behaviors, with their relative insensitivity to drugs supporting comparatively greater per occasion use. Pubertal increases in gonadal hormones are a hallmark of adolescence, although there is little evidence for a simple association of these hormones with behavioral change during adolescence. Prominent developmental transformations are seen in prefrontal cortex and limbic brain regions of adolescents across a variety of species, alterations that include an apparent shift in the balance between mesocortical and mesolimbic dopamine systems. Developmental changes in these stressor-sensitive regions, which are critical for attributing incentive salience to drugs and other stimuli, likely contribute to the unique characteristics of adolescence.
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            Neuroscience of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: the search for endophenotypes.

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              Structural and functional brain development and its relation to cognitive development.

              Despite significant gains in the fields of pediatric neuroimaging and developmental neurobiology, surprisingly little is known about the developing human brain or the neural bases of cognitive development. This paper addresses MRI studies of structural and functional changes in the developing human brain and their relation to changes in cognitive processes over the first few decades of human life. Based on post-mortem and pediatric neuroimaging studies published to date, the prefrontal cortex appears to be one of the last brain regions to mature. Given the prolonged physiological development and organization of the prefrontal cortex during childhood, tasks believed to involve this region are ideal for investigating the neural bases of cognitive development. A number of normative pediatric fMRI studies examining prefrontal cortical activity in children during memory and attention tasks are reported. These studies, while largely limited to the domain of prefrontal functioning and its development, lend support for continued development of attention and memory both behaviorally and physiologically throughout childhood and adolescence. Specifically, the magnitude of activity observed in these studies was greater and more diffuse in children relative to adults. These findings are consistent with the view that increasing cognitive capacity during childhood may coincide with a gradual loss rather than formation of new synapses and presumably a strengthening of remaining synaptic connections. It is clear that innovative methods like fMRI together with MRI-based morphometry and nonhuman primate studies will transform our current understanding of human brain development and its relation to behavioral development.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
                Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
                Elsevier BV
                01497634
                January 2003
                January 2003
                : 27
                : 1-2
                : 3-18
                Article
                10.1016/S0149-7634(03)00005-8
                © 2003

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