A new Canadian study has found brain structure differences between adolescents struggling with mental health issues and their healthy peers.
The study participants received magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans designed to examine the white matter of their brains. The findings were then compared to scans from a second set of adolescents in the same age range who did not have a history of mental health issues.
The results show clear differences in connective neural pathways, as a function of cognitive control, between the healthy adolescents and those struggling with mental-health issues.
“We saw pathways that were less structurally efficient in the patients compared to the healthy controls,” said Dr. Anthony Singhal, professor and chair in the department of psychology at the University of Alberta, and member of UAlberta’s Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (NHMI).
“Moreover, those observations correlated with attentional control test scores. In other words, less neural efficiency in key pathways was associated with an overall reduced tendency to focus attention.”
The paper is published in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior.
The study is one of the first to show these results with adolescents, adding to previous research conducted with adult participants.
“We can’t paint with broad strokes that we are talking about differences between people’s brains,” explained Singhal. “It’s just not that simple. But we do have to start somewhere, and this is a great jumping-off point.”
Source: University of Alberta