Friday, July 03, 2009

Increases and decreases in neural synchrony during our development

Uhlhaas, Singer, and others use EEG measurements of neural synchrony to illustrate instabilities of cognitive performance during the adolescent period, instabilities that contrast with earlier and later periods of increasing cognitive performance. They suggest that changes in neural synchrony seen during the transition from late adolescence to early adulthood reflect a critical developmental period that is associated with a rearrangement of functional networks and with an increase of the temporal precision and spatial focusing of neuronal interactions:
Brain development is characterized by maturational processes that span the period from childhood through adolescence to adulthood, but little is known whether and how developmental processes differ during these phases. We analyzed the development of functional networks by measuring neural synchrony in EEG recordings during a Gestalt perception task in 68 participants ranging in age from 6 to 21 years. Until early adolescence, developmental improvements in cognitive performance were accompanied by increases in neural synchrony. This developmental phase was followed by an unexpected decrease in neural synchrony that occurred during late adolescence and was associated with reduced performance. After this period of destabilization, we observed a reorganization of synchronization patterns that was accompanied by pronounced increases in gamma-band power and in theta and beta phase synchrony. These findings provide evidence for the relationship between neural synchrony and late brain development that has important implications for the understanding of adolescence as a critical period of brain maturation...The changing patterns of synchronous, oscillatory activity during adolescence seem to reflect a major reorganization of cortical networks that may have profound implications for the understanding of both normal development and developmental disorders, such as schizophrenia, that typically emerge during this period.

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