July 15, 2009
Brain Development Of Adolescent Girls Different Than Boys

Here's a big non-shocker: science shows once again that in adolescence girls become different than boys in how they think.

The study, by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Georgia State University, appears in the July/August 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers looked at mostly White psychiatrically healthy Americans ages 9 to 17 to determine what happens in the brains of preteens and teens at a time of significant change in social behavior. The youths looked at photos of peers and rated their interest in interacting with each one. Then they underwent a brain scan while reviewing the pictures and rated how much each young person in the picture might want to interact with them in return. The youths were told they would be matched with a peer for a chat after the scan.

The study found that in older girls (as compared to younger girls), brain regions (the nucleus accumbens, insula, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala) associated with social rewards and motivation, processing emotions, hormonal changes, and social memory responded differently when they thought about being judged by their peers, especially peers with whom they wanted to interact. These differences were not evident between younger and older boys.

What type of cognitive ability changes more in male adolescents? I would expect spatial reasoning to take a big leap in developing males.

The mind areas for thinking about other people are developing in preschoolers.

The study, in the July/August 2009 issue of the journal Child Development, was conducted by researchers at Queen's University at Kingston in Ontario, Canada.

In the preschool years, children develop social skills by learning how to understand others' thoughts and feelings, or their theory of mind. In most children, theory of mind changes over time so they come to understand that others' thoughts are representations of the world that may or may not match the way the world actually is. In their study of EEGs of 29 4-year-olds, the researchers found that these changes are related to the functional development of two parts of the brain—the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and the temporal-parietal juncture—that govern similar understanding in adults.

"For a while now, we have known that specific brain areas are used when adults think about others' thoughts," according to Mark A. Sabbagh, associate professor of psychology at Queen's University at Kingston and the study's lead author. "Our findings are the first to show that these specialized neural circuits may be there as early as the preschool years, and that maturational changes in these areas are associated with preschoolers' abilities to think about their social world in increasingly sophisticated ways.

I wonder whether brain scans of 5 year olds can show which ones will grow up by be highly skilled at handling other people and which will do poorly at relating to others.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 July 15 10:33 PM  Brain Development

Billy Oblivion said at July 16, 2009 3:08 PM:

"The researchers looked at mostly White psychiatrically healthy Americans ages 9 to 17..."

I don't know what you can accurately determine from a sample size of 2.

Shanik said at July 19, 2009 6:58 PM:

Men and women are far different in their thinking than boys and girls are. When a scientists wants to prove that male and female brains are no different from each other, he studies children. But in order to understand the brains of men and women, one must look at their brains from adolescence on. That is when the changes go ballistic.

Deniers of human biodiversity, of differences between gender and race, are anti-science to the core. They may pretend to be scientists, but they are actually ideologues.

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