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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 4, 2013

Brain structural and functional changes in adolescents with psychiatric disorders

  • José Javier Miguel-Hidalgo EMAIL logo


During adolescence, hormonal and neurodevelopmental changes geared to ensuring reproduction and achieving independence are very likely mediated by the growth of neural processes, remodeling of synaptic connections, increased myelination in prefrontal areas and maturation of connecting subcortical areas. These processes, greatly accelerated in adolescence, follow an asynchronous pattern in different brain areas. Neuroimaging research using functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging has produced most of the insights regarding brain structural and functional neuropathology in adolescent psychiatric disorders. In schizophrenia, first episodes during adolescence are linked to greater-than-normal losses in gray matter density and white matter integrity and show a divergence of maturational trajectories from normative neural development in a progression similar to that of adult-onset schizophrenia. Anxiety and mood disorders in adolescence have been linked to abnormally increased activity in the amygdala and ventral prefrontal cortical areas, although some data suggest that neural abnormalities in the amygdala and anxiety maybe particularly more frequent in adolescents than in adults. Alcohol misuse in adolescence results in reduced integrity in the white matter and reduced gray matter density that, given the high intensity of adolescent synaptic and myelin remodeling, may result in persistent and profound changes in circuits supporting memory and emotional and appetitive control. The interaction of persistent changes due to prenatal exposure with the contemporaneous expression of genetic factors and disturbing environmental exposure may be an important factor in the appearance of psychiatric disorders in adolescence. Further progress in understanding adolescent psychopathology will require postmortem research of molecular and cellular determinants in the adolescent brain.

Corresponding author: José Javier Miguel-Hidalgo, PhD, DMSc, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 N State Street, Jackson, MS 39216, USA


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Received: 2012-8-5
Accepted: 2012-9-28
Published Online: 2013-07-04
Published in Print: 2013-09-01

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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