X-Message-Number: 16290
Date: Wed, 16 May 2001 10:21:02 -0700 (PDT)
From: Doug Skrecky <>
Subject: [mind-l] Digest Number 1071

Message: 2
   From: "Ken Michel" <>

An article about the brain that was posted on one of my other lists. 
It may not have anything to do with the technological nature of this 
list but I thought it was interesting.

Ken Michel

Study: Brain Growth Does Not Stop in Adolescence 

By Will Dunham 

WASHINGTON (May 14) - A key aspect of brain development continues 
nearly age 50, scientists said on Monday in a finding that 
contradicts the 
current view that such maturation ends before 20 and may shed light 
on brain 
ailments such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. 

The researchers, led by Dr. George Bartzokis of the Department of 
Affairs, used magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain development 
in 70 
normal men aged 19-76. 

So-called white matter -- which sends signals from one part of the 
brain to 
another -- continues to develop in the frontal and temporal lobes on 
until 48, the study found. 

The researchers confirmed that so-called gray matter -- the cerebral 
-- achieves peak development at the end of adolescence, then declines 
old age. 

''If your brain is the Internet, gray matter is your computer and the 
matter is the telephone lines that connect your computer to all the 
computers on the planet,'' Bartzokis, associate chief of staff for 
health at the VA's Central Arkansas Veterans Health Care System, said 
in an 

''Most people think of the brain stopping development either in 
childhood or 
by the time we are adults,'' Bartzokis said. 

But he noted that people are very different at 40 than at 
17. ''You're really 
not the same person. And the issue is -- are you not the same person 
you just had an awful lot of experiences or are you not the same 
because your computer (brain) is very different? And this study 
suggests that 
your computer is very different.'' 

The study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry. 


Bartzokis said that understanding how the structures of the brain 
develop and 
degenerate over the entire human life span is vital in gaining a 
insight into Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and drug addiction. 

The onset of Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia is closely linked 
to age. 
Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative brain disorder that manifests 
among primarily those over 65, although the disease may have been 
eating away 
at the brain for many years. 

The onset of schizophrenia, a brain disease characterized by 
typically is seen in young adulthood. 

Bartzokis said he focused on the frontal and temporal lobes -- the 
front part 
of the brain where memory, higher reasoning and functions such as 
control take place. These functions define ''who we are as humans,'' 
Bartzokis added. 

The brain abnormalities seen in Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia 
and drug 
addiction such as cocaine dependence are seen in that part of the 

Suggestions were made in the 1960s that white matter brain 
continued into adulthood, but that was based on findings from 
Bartzokis said. He added that he employed an imaging technique that 
the ability to track white matter maturation in living people. 

Since both developmental and degenerative changes can be measured in 
people, such brain imaging methods can be used to identify what 
interfere with development or promote degeneration of the brain, 
said. He suggested that imaging could be used to nail down what 
can promote brain development or prevent degeneration. 

''It takes 20 to 30 years to actually manifest Alzheimer's even 
though it's 
eating up your brain because you have reserve capacity,'' Bartzokis 

''If you can measure that with imaging when you are 50 and you do an 
intervention when you are 50 and you change the trajectory (of the 
even by a little bit, all of a sudden instead of getting Alzheimer's 
when you 
are 70, you get it when you are 110. And then it's no longer a 

Reuters 16:42 05-14-01

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