Erratic teenage behaviour: Cambridge University experts to study their brains

In an attempt to unravel the cause behind erratic teenage behaviour, Cambridge University experts have begun a 5-million pound study of the adolescent brain.

The psychiatrists aim to pinpoint changes in the way their brain is wired that are responsible for the impulsive and emotional behaviour parents often have to cope with.

"MRI scans will give us very good pictures of how the anatomy of the brain changes over the course of development. We are particularly interested in how the tissue at the centre of the brain, known as white matter, might change over the course of development," Professor Ed Bullmore, one of the psychiatrists involved in the study, told BBC News.

The project will involve scanning the brains of 300 people aged between 14 and 24 to investigate the way they change as the person matures and whether these changes are what cause teenagers to gradually shed their sometimes antisocial behavioural patterns.

The researchers also hope to learn more about how mental disorders develop in young adults in the process.

"Arguably we've all been there and it's a very awkward and complex and confusing time of life. So to be able to express oneself is quite difficult. So by the use of imaging and other tools we can really tap into these features of the adolescent brain and understand how they develop over time as they become a young adult," said Dr Becky Inkster, who is also working on the study.

The psychiatrists also hope to identify whether psychotic disorders could be caused by abnormal brain development in adolescence.

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