Technology Neurological diseases: what the new brain growth charts reveal

Neurological diseases: what the new brain growth charts reveal

The growth peak of gray matter is reached at the age of six years.

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After the height and weight curves, here are the brain growth curves. Researchers have established a standard lifelong plot of brain evolution for the first time, result of a colossal research work. It was necessary to analyze 120,000 brain MRI examinations from different countries, run the parameters of these images in computer models for two million hours and then use a supercomputer. This international team of researchers, led by Richard Bethlehem of the University of Cambridge, was able to model this standard curve of the evolution of a so-called “normal” brain, in good health, from the fetus to the age of 100. years and normality is sometimes surprising.

Everyone knows that brain performance decreases with age. Except that these works show that the peak of gray matter growth is reached at the age of six. With the exception of the gray matter of the subcortical structures (involved in automatic learning, such as walking or in emotions): this continues to grow until the age of 14.

Then, the volume of gray matter decreases slowly. But let adults be reassured, the volume of white matter which corresponds to the connections between neurons increases almost constantly until the age of 29, then begins to decline with an acceleration after 50 years. These results were published in the journal Nature.

These brain growth curves will be used for research purposes initially, because the database should be further enriched with other brain MRIs from around the world. Eventually, the researchers hope to develop a diagnostic aid tool for doctors and neurologists, a tool that would allow them to detect areas of their patients’ brains that do not evolve in a normal trajectory. This could perhaps make it possible to identify, in an early way, signs of neurological or psychiatric diseases even before the appearance of symptoms.

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