Teens' brains add new cells during puberty to help them become social adults

The current issue of "The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" has the results of a new study on the teen brain's birth of new cells during puberty. (The study was done on hamsters, but apparently hamsters and humans are oddly similar in brain structure!)

Neuroscientists showed that during puberty, the brain adds new cells in the amygdala (and its connected regions) - the brain region that deals with reading and understanding social cues. For us, that means evaluating body language and facial expressions (especially in the opposite sex).

But all these cells didn't die off after puberty; some became part of the neural networks involved in adult social and sexual behavior.

This was even more prevalent in male hamsters raised in an "enriched environment" (bigger cage with a running wheel, nesting materials and other features - vs. a plain cage). For these males, even more of the new brain cells survived and became functional. 

I'm guessing that in humans this means that boys who are active, athletic, physically and emotionally healthy, etc. have a higher percentage of surviving cells that were born during puberty. 

Here's the article:



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