Brain ‘fingerprinting’ provides insights into mental health of young adolescents

University of the Sunshine Coast

Medical imaging of a person’s unique brain signature – much like a fingerprint – has the potential to predict mental health problems in young adolescents, according to a world-first study by University of the Sunshine Coast researchers.

In a study published in NeuroImage, researchers at USC’s Thompson Institute tested the uniqueness of individual adolescent brain activity patterns, and whether changes in their brain networks were associated with their mental health symptoms at different timepoints.

“We examined if there were unique patterns of neural activity in brain networks that might be associated with emerging troubling, confusing, and frustrating feelings experienced by adolescents, particularly those who may be vulnerable to mental health disorders,” said Dr Shan, Head of Neuroimaging Platform at the Thompson Institute.

Dr Shan, who was lead author of the study, said the team characterised the development of various brain ‘functional networks’ in young adolescents from brain scans undertaken every four months on a group of about 70 participants, starting at the age of 12 through to 15 years.

Each time the scans were taken, the participants also completed questionnaires asking about their feelings over the past 30 days, particularly about their levels of depression and anxiety.

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