The $8 million attempt to figure out the teenage mind

A Cambridge University brain scanning project aims to unlock the mysteries of the creature from the room upstairs, in a first ever study of its kind.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
Colorful mind. This teenage brain scan might hold the answer to adolescent behavior. Wellcome Trust calls this sort of image a "brainbow."

No wonder you can't figure out your teenager's mind. The gnarly thing takes $8 million to decipher.

That's how much British medical charity Wellcome Trust is giving to the University of Cambridge and University College London to try to unravel the cerebral mysteries of the creature from the room upstairs.

Researchers will scan the brains of 300 people between 14- and 24-years-old to determine changes that take place in the organ during adolescent years, the BBC reports.

"During the teenage years, scientists believe that the brain rewires itself, and that this rewiring, specifically at the front, will increase the mind's ability to think ahead and control emotions," a BBC video explains,

The £5 million ($7.6 million) study aims to settle the question of whether changes to brain structure explains people's habit of acting less impulsively as they grow older. It "should also shed light on the emergence of mental disorders in young adults," the story notes.

"MRI scans will give us very good pictures of how the anatomy of the brain changes over the course of development," says Cambridge professor of psychiatry Ed Bullmore. "We are particularly interested in how the tissue at the center of the brain, known as white matter, might change over the course of development."

White matter wires into surface brain cells known as gray matter. Bullmore thinks that white matter changes as the brain starts to regulate strong signals generated by teenage hormones.

Cambridge and UCL will use a type of scanning that "has only been possible relatively recently" and that a U.S.-led study called the Human Connectome Project is using to investigate the adult brain, the BBC writes. The U.K. project marks the first such detailed probe of the teenage brain, it adds.

It's not clear whether the lab technicians will be shielded behind a fortress wall to protect them from their dangerous subjects.

Image is a screen grab from BBC video report.

Wellcome Trust is looking for volunteers for the study.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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