Analyzing the effects of puberty on brain development

A comprehensive review of findings from neuroimaging studies investigating the relation between pubertal and functional brain development in humans.


Puberty is the time in life when a boy or girl becomes sexually mature. It is a process that usually happens between ages 10 and 14 for girls and ages 12 and 16 for boys. It causes physical changes, and affects boys and girls differently.

Although there is a long history of studying the influence of pubertal hormones on brain function/structure in animals, this research in human adolescents is young but burgeoning.

In a new study, scientists provided a comprehensive review of findings from 28 neuroimaging studies investigating the relation between puberty and functional brain development. Scientists organized 28 studies into four domains: reward, facial emoting, social evaluation and cognitive processing. They analyzed the investigation results via lavel-based meta-examination, which empowered them to look at discoveries over multiple examinations, ruling out individual examination restrictions.

Junqiang Dai, graduate student in psychology said, “By using label-based meta-analysis, we were able to identify emerging findings, develop confidence in those findings, and establish overall patterns.”

Suzy Scherf, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience said, “I was surprised to find that, across the studies, they found little evidence to support the popular theory that adolescents are motivated to pursue reward experiences. Previous studies have suggested that the reward-processing area in the brain develops faster than other areas during puberty.”

“Our results do not mean that an association does not exist, just that the literature at the moment does not support it. We also found limited convergence in other areas relating to functional brain development and puberty.”

“This is important, because their findings can help guide other researchers and grant decision-makers about the current state of findings, as well as the strengths and limitations in the field.”

“It really emphasizes the need for more interdisciplinary work conducted by teams of scientists to move the field forward.”

Although, further research is required to study the the role of puberty in the development of brain function.


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