The “fingerprint” of the brain provides information about the mental health of adolescents

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Medical images of a person’s unique brain signature — like a fingerprint — have the potential to predict the mental health problems of young teens, according to the world’s first study by researchers at Sunshine Coast University.

in a study published in NeuroImageResearchers at the USC Thompson Institute tested the specificity of adolescent brain activity patterns, and changes in their brain networks were related to their mental health symptoms at different times.

“We looked at whether there were specific patterns of neuronal activity in brain networks that could be linked to the disturbing, disturbing, and frustrating feelings that adolescents experience, especially those that may be vulnerable to mental health disorders,” said Dr. Shan, director. Thompson Institute Neuroimaging Platform.

Dr. Shan, who was the lead author of the study, said the group characterized the development of different “functional networks” in the brain by having a brain scan every four months in young adolescents, in a group of about 70 participants, starting at age 12. Up to 15 years.

Each time the migrations took place, participants also completed questionnaires asking about their feelings over the past 30 days, particularly about their level of depression and anxiety.

“The findings underscore the importance of longitudinal neuroimaging in controlling adolescent mental health — as the brain grows and changes dramatically in both structure and function — and its potential to detect changes before abnormal behaviors appear,” said Dr. Shan.

“Given the nature of mental illness that is emerging in young people, an ongoing measure of psychological distress reveals important links between neurobiological measures and mental illness.”

Mapping brain changes as they occur

The data were collected by the Thompson Institute as part of the Longitudinal Adolescent Brain Study (LABS), a study designed to monitor changes in the brain during adolescence and to delve deeper into the factors that affect adolescent mental health.

More than half of all mental health problems are established before the age of 14. In Australia, one in four young people between the ages of 15 and 19 meet the criteria for a serious mental illness.

The “uniqueness” of the brain signature was determined by the extent to which an individual resembled himself at other points in time, as well as how similar they were to their peers (other participants).

Keys to the differences and similarities of young minds

Like fingerprints, each human brain has a unique profile of signals between different regions of the brain, which becomes more individual and specialized as a person gets older.

“The brain works like a symphony orchestra, synchronizing activities in different areas of the brain to determine our thoughts and behavior,” Dr. Shan said.

It was confirmed that special brain-sync is present in 12-year-olds, with 92 percent of participants having their own functional connectors or special brain “fingerprints”.

Further studies of 13 individual brain networks found peculiarity in some networks at the age of 12, while others were still maturing and consolidating.

Most importantly, the brain network that controls an individual’s “cognitive flexibility” and ability to manage negative effects, known as “cingulum-operculum” (or CON), has been found to have a low level of specificity.

“This suggests that it has not yet reached maturity and therefore provides a biological explanation for the greater vulnerability of young people,” Dr. Shan said.

“With a high level of specificity throughout the brain, the results suggest that adolescents are able to regulate these systems in their daily behavior. But they are not yet done in a controlled, sustainable, and reliable way.”

A key finding was that the specificity of CON was significantly and negatively associated with the subsequent levels of psychological distress when assessed four months later.

“This relationship reflected the importance of CON in adolescent mental health. In future research, we intend to divert this to reflect the deterioration of previous experiences or the delays in forming a single system that increase psychological distress,” Dr. Shan said.

The most unique networks were the “frontoparietal network”, which deals with immediate information processing, and the “default mode” network, which is important for internal cognitive processes, such as thinking about oneself or the future.


The effects of stress on the “triple network” of the adolescent brain


More information:
Zack Y Shan et al, Longitudinal study of the peculiarity of functional connectoma and its link to psychological distress in adolescence, NeuroImage (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.neuroimage.2022.119358

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Mention: Brain ‘fingerprinting’ provides insights into the mental health of young teens (June 16, 2022) https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-06-brain-fingerprinting-insights-mental-health.html June 16, 2022 acquired.

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