Introduction The brain is responsible for the creation of language,thought, attention and consciousness, memory and imagination – yet no extensiveknowledge of its structure has provided a clear insight on how the braindevelops and how early experiences affect that development (childwelfare.
gov, 2015). Adolescence is the phase between late childhood andadulthood. During this phase adolescents thrive on new experiences, powerfulemotions, sometimes putting their lives at risk. Neuroscientific explanationshave presented correlations between academic and emotional behaviour. Enablingneuroscientists to specify way of intervening adolescents in a social andcognitive context. Self-regulationLarge scale longitudinal structural neuroimaging is a highlycompelling tool in developmental neuroscience due to its capability inmeasuring anatomical change in an individual over time – providing essentialinsights in characteristics of human maturation, and in ways whichneurodevelopment varies in respect to sex, cognitive function, genetic profileand disease status.
Self-regulation is the ability to control behaviour, cognitionand – failure of this is related to a range of neuropsychiatric issues (Fjell, 2012) More specifically, decision making and control has beenlinked to academic success and social adjustment. In support of this, lowerperformance on the flanker task has shown poorer social interactions, leadingto peer rejection and more disruptive behaviour in classrooms (Fjell, 2012). . Investigation onrelationships between cognitive control via MRI and DTI by Fjell et al.
found acorrelation between brain areas and regulatory problems in differentneurodevelopmental conditions – negatively impacting performance on cognitivecontrol tasks and daily life.Harmful environments or prenatal substance exposure haveshown structural differences in the prefrontal and right anterior cingulatecortex; causing psychopathological conditions such as ADHD. By studying the effects of prenatalsubstance exposure (alcohol/drugs), neuroscientists can discover solutions to treat/preventpsychopathological conditions within early childhood by introducing cognitivelyenriched environments. For example, studies of environments in rats have shownthat greater complexity within an environment before or after brain damage indeveloping and adult rats (Hannigan et al, 1993), strengthened theprocess of recovery of cortical impairment of the brain (Jack P, 2000). In other words,rats prenatally exposed to substances can gain from the positive attributes fromreinforced environments. (Hannigan et al, 1993).
Moving from animal studies to research theneurodevelopmental features of human cognitive; executive and impulsivedevelopment is a very time consuming, especially when this study would providemore concrete evidence on cognitive control through longitudinal studies. CorticaldevelopmentNeuroscientists have discovered a lot about the structureand function of the brain. Majority of focus of research was on earlydevelopment of isolated cortical locations in the human brain. Now, with theuse of new imaging technology, neuroscientists can examine normal brains andbrains of normal people throughout their lives, with regards to sex and howvarious cortical regions mature with respect to one another (Armin Raznahan, 2011).
In short, the development of prefrontal cortexes are vitalfor cognitive control during structural development during adolescence.Raznahan found that architectural changes of the developing brain had no structuralcorrelation. Whereas, great maturational coupling across the cortices provideda clear correlation between frontal and temporal cortices in the brain, incontrast to sensory cortices: and then identified the rate at which corticalregions were most tightly coupled (Armin Raznahan, 2011).
What’s more is that by separating sex effect on prefrontalmaturations, it’s possible to identify sex difference in neurodevelopmentalmechanisms, in relation to cognition and behaviour. Female adolescents wereshown to have a distinct relationship between frontopolar cortex and leftprefrontal cortex maturations whereas male adolescents don’t. Suggesting thatthe link between functional and maturational coupling may be a common propertyof the brain, concerning sex differences and different cortical functionsduring problem solving tasks (Steinberg, 2010) requiring extensive coordination ofmultiple higher cognitive processes (Armin Raznahan, 2011).
Brain developmentduring late childhood and adolescenceIn developmental science, longitudinal studies have providedevidence of maturational coupling of the brain occurs during adolescence – whenthe overall number of synapses decrease to their adult levels, there is anincrease in white matter and changes inneurotransmitter systems (Jonrad, 2013). Thus, the cognitivefunctioning and physiological processes during maturation is more complex thananticipated. As mentioned in cortical development, the organisation ofcortices during adolescence affects anatomical and physiological regulations. Byunderstanding the link of early or late exposure of pubertal hormones to childbehaviour and mental disorders will aid in the recognition of influence ofsocial and cultural aspects of young people. Recent findings have tried toestablish the role of pubertal hormones on brain structure and functionaldevelopment (Simmons, 2014) through a group ofchildren who differ in their exposure of adrencheal hormones.In summary, this research has introduced the investigationon how minimal or over exposure to pubertal hormones may have a role in thedevelopment of mental disorder symptoms.
Although recent findings is scarce inthis area, this study has begun to recognize the association between potentialphases of pubertal brain development and physiological processes, unfortunatelythe impacts of these have not established yet. Suppressing risky behaviour on a neurophysiological basishas been proven difficult. Therefore, it would be wise to allow adolescents toexpress their emotions in a safe environment, while increasing their socialexperiences and interactions without risky behaviours through regulatorylegalisation (Jonrad, 2013).
By doing so adolescents are surroundedby positive examples, for example: a teenage character on a TV show may expressclearly their suicidal feelings to parents or guardians confidently. EvaluationLaboratory studies of adolescents using hypotheticalscenarios without peer influence may not provide a real life understanding ofreal-world decision making (Paus et al, 2008). As mentioned before (Hannigan et al, 1993), animal studies helpanswer many questions on adolescent brain development and its influence ondisease – by modelling the adolescent phase in animals, scientist can begin tounderstand the early symptoms of psychiatric disorders such as depression. Improvement in cognitive control and self-regulation maydepend on maturation of great long distance long distance white matter fibresand prefrontal structures being involved. Neuroimaging techniques implied thatthe anterior cingulate area showed a relationship with white matter tracts and cognitivecontrol. Although, the cross sectional design used prevents the involvement ofindividual personalities and differences on making depictions of relationshipsbetween set variables.
The lack of longitudinal studies also preventconclusions based on self-regulations to be replicated. Other factors affecting brain development could be hormonalchanges. However the research on this topic are limited. By investigating theneurobiological and behavioural issues of late or early exposures of hormonescould change the understanding of pubertal risks. E.
g. findings of animalstudies have shown cannabis during adolescence has can cause permanentcognitive impairment and structural changes in the brain, compared to adultcannabis users (Jonrad, 2013). In other words, the plasticity of thebrain during adolescence causes vulnerability towards environmental influences.Despite no link between behavioural changes and brain structureand cognitive control has been made, findings through neuroimaging techniques (DTI,CT scans and Functional MRI) help develop models on cognitive andneurophysiological processes. In reference to cortical development, CT changeshave demonstrated strong correlations between cortical regions (Armin Raznahan, 2011).However, CT changes on a cellular basis are not understood, so it’s notpossible to know if physiological changes are occurring at the same rate inmales and females.
Therefore, the correlations between the rate of CT changesin two cortical regions may or may not show that the change is due to a commonfactor. ConclusionDuring childhood cognitive control develops rapidlyaccompanied with prolonged development during adolescence. This implies thatself-regulation has an overlapping spectrum of normal to neurodevelopmentaldisorders (Fjell, 2012). Insinuating thatthere’s a wider time window of greater reorganisation during brain maturation (Evans et al, 2012).
Findings through neuroimaging techniques help understandwhen and how refinement of normal development occurs and, may increase effortsto prevent or treat disorder (Paus et al, 2008). Until now, cognitive neuroscientists haven’t addressed theimportance of environmental influences and organisation of the brain (Jonrad, 2013). The integration ofanimal and human studies use both neuroscience and behavioural approaches, and considersthe negative impacts of early stress and trauma (Jack P, 2000). The experiments onrats presented that younger rats had an awareness for their environment;suggesting that the removal from complex environments can negatively affectdevelopment, with the brain trying to reorganise itself.
In sum, neuroscientific research on brain development providesfew insights on how early environments can begin to have an effect ondevelopment. Evidence shows that brain development begins before birth, and isprolonged into adult years, to gain experience for development and functioning.Majority of brain development involved in cognitive control and socialdevelopment either suggests that critical/sensitive periods haven’t been fullyexplored or the brain still desires new experiences throughout development.