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Teen Brains: Seeing the Big Picture

Ability to See Other Points of View Develops in Teen Years
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 15, 2010 (San Diego) -- For parents who grow frustrated with their children's seeming inability to understand others who have different points of view, here's hope from the scientists:

Give it a few more birthdays. Teen brains get better in this regard.

As children mature, the regions in a specific brain network known as the default-mode network or DMN begin to work together, and parents are likely to notice a difference in the children's ability to look outside themselves, according to new research presented here at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

''Between 13 and 19, the regions of the DMN start to work in concert," researcher Stuart Washington, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at Georgetown University and Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. tells WebMD. He presented his findings Sunday.

"It takes until the teen years for the DMN to develop," he says. That's the case in typically developing children, he says, but not in those with autism, he also found in the study.

When he compared the typically developing children he studied with those with autism, ages 7 to 17, he didn't find the DMN worked more in concert as the autistic children grew older.

What Is DMN?

Scientists have been focusing on the DMN for about the last decade, Washington says. The network, not yet fully understood, consists of five scattered regions that "ramp up" when we daydream or the mind is at rest.

It's been linked with introspection, the ability to understand one's own point of view or beliefs and that others may have different points of view or beliefs. It's also been linked with the ability to reflect on one's actions in the past and the consequences of them.

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