• Science Saturday: Understanding the speed of brain communication

a multicolored illustration of a profile of a human brain on a background of paint splatter and hexagons in red and pink

It often was thought that the speed of information transmitted among regions of the brain stabilized during early adolescence. A new study in Nature Neuroscience by Mayo Clinic researchers and colleagues from the Netherlands found transmission speeds continue to increase into early adulthood.

Because problems such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorders can emerge in late adolescence and early adulthood, a better understanding of brain development may help clinicians offer therapies to treat these disorders.

"A fundamental understanding of the developmental trajectory of brain circuitry may help identify sensitive periods of development when doctors could offer therapies to their patients," says Dora Hermes, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic biomedical engineer and senior author of the study.

Called the human connectome, the structural system of neural pathways in the brain or nervous system develops as people age. But how structural changes affect the speed of neuronal signaling has not been well described.

"Just as transit time for a truck would depend on the structure of the road, so does the transmission speed of signals among brain areas depend on the structure of neural pathways," Dr. Hermes explains. "The human connectome matures during development and aging, and can be affected by disease. All these processes may affect the speed of information flow in the brain."

Read the rest of the article on the Discovery's Edge blog.


Other Mayo Clinic medical research websites:

Related articles