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Creative Ideas for Science Fair Projects -- The Teenage Brain and Behavioral Patterns

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For many years it was thought that brain development was set at a fairly early age. By the time teen years were reached the brain was thought to be largely finished. However, scientists doing cutting-edge research using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, have mapped the brain from early childhood into to adulthood and found very contrary data. It now appears the brain continues to change into the early 20's with the frontal lobes, responsible for reasoning and problem solving, developing last.

Get Creative!!

Can you develop a questionnaire form to provide psychological data to support these studies?

FOR TIME LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Figure 1.

Time-Lapse Imaging Tracks Brain Maturation from ages 5 to 20

Constructed from MRI scans of healthy children and teens, the time-lapse "movie", from which the above images were extracted, compresses 15 years of brain development (ages 520) into just a few seconds.

Red indicates more gray matter, blue less gray matter. Gray matter wanes in a back-to-front wave as the brain matures and neural connections are pruned.

Source: Paul Thompson, Ph.D. UCLA Laboratory of Neuroimaging

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/press/prbrainmaturing.cfm?styleN=one

Although scientists don't know yet what accounts for the observed changes, they may parallel a pruning process that occurs early in life that appears to follow the principle of "use-it-or-lose-it:" neural connections, or synapses, that get exercised are retained, while those that don't are lost.

Brain Tissue Changes in Development (15 year timespan)

Time-lapse Imaging Tracks Brain Developing from ages 5 to 20 NIMH/UCLA Project Visualizes Maturing Brain

Source: Paul Thompson, Ph.D. UCLA Laboratory of Neuroimaging

Where can you go from here?

Here is one idea----

Create a questionnaire form to access Risk Taking..

Use the questionnaire on 4 age groups (range from 5-20). You should have at least 10-15 subjects in each group to provide enough data.

Compare your data with changes in brain development using the data from TIME LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY.

 

Further Reading

The Adolescent Brain -- Why Teenagers Think Differently

Teen Brains Explain Mood Swings

Teen Brains on Trial

Teen Brains Under Construction

Imaging Study Shows Brain Developing -- NIH

FINAL NOTE : DISCUSS ALL YOUR IDEAS FOR A SCIENCE PROJECT WITH YOUR TEACHER BEFORE STARTING ONE



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