Understanding the Speed ​​of Brain Communication – ScienceDaily


It has often been thought that the speed of information transmitted between regions of the brain stabilizes during early adolescence. Study in Natural neuroscience Mayo Clinic researchers and colleagues from the Netherlands found that transmission speeds continue to increase into early adulthood.

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

“A basic understanding of the developmental trajectory of brain circuits may help identify sensitive developmental periods when clinicians can offer treatments to their patients,” says Dora Hermes, PhD, a Mayo Clinic biomedical engineer and senior author of the study.

The structural system of neural pathways in the brain or nervous system, called the human neural network, develops as people get older. But how structural changes affect the speed of nerve signals has not been well described.

“Just as the crossing time of a truck depends on the structure of the road, the speed of signal transmission between regions of the brain depends on the structure of the neural pathways,” explains Dr. Hermes. “The human neural network matures during development and aging, and can be affected by disease. All of these processes may affect the speed of information flow in the brain.” To measure the time it took for signals to travel between brain regions in 74 research participants between the ages of 4 and 51. The intracranial measurements were performed in a small group of patients who had electrodes implanted to monitor epilepsy at the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Response delays in connected brain regions have shown that transmission speeds in the human brain increase throughout childhood and even into early adulthood. Their lifespan is around 30 to 40 years.

The team’s data indicates that adults’ transmission speeds were nearly twice as fast as those normally found in children. Transfer speeds were usually faster in people around the age of 30 or 40 than in teenagers.

Brain transmission speed is measured in milliseconds, which is a unit of time equal to one thousandth of a second. For example, the researchers measured the neural speed of a 4-year-old patient at 45 ms for the signal to travel from frontal to parietal regions of the brain. In a 38-year-old patient, the same trajectory was measured at 20 ms. For comparison, blinking takes about 100 to 400 milliseconds.

Researchers are working to characterize the electrical stimulation-driven connection in the human brain. One of the next steps is to better understand how transmission speeds change with neurological diseases. They collaborate with pediatric neurosurgeons and neurologists to understand how diseases alter transmission speeds compared to what would be considered within the normal range for a given age group.

The research is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (R01MH122258).


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