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Child Brains Organized Differently Than Adult Brains

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Any parent will testify that it is hard to know what is going on in the heads of children, but a new study shows how it’s going on.

Through a series of brain scans, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that kids’ brains are organized differently than those of adults. The workings of children’s neural connections are more governed by proximity to one another than in the case of adult brains.

Researcher Steven E. Petersen and his colleagues scanned the brains of 210 subjects ranging in age from seven to 31 years old. Researchers set the lower limit for study subjects at 7 years of age because the brain is approximately 95 percent of its adult size at this age.

Previous research revealed four brain networks with varying responsibilities in the adult brain that typically involve tight links between several brain regions that are physically distant from each other.

The new research found that this is not the case in children: Instead of having networks made of brain regions that are distant from each other but functionally linked, most of the tightest connections in a child’s brain are between brain regions that are physically close to each other.

That doesn’t mean that kids are more scatter-brained than adults though.

“Regardless of how tempting it might be to assume otherwise, a normal child’s brain is not inherently disorganized or chaotic,” Petersen said. “It’s differently organized but at least as capable as an adult brain.”

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