Since 1998, scientists in the Netherlands have been watching 129 people grow up. Over those 20 years, they observed and obsessively measured their patients’ brain matter. Now, the results are in: What they found suggests that childhood stress may accelerate brain maturation, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
This research, published Friday in Scientific Reports, showed that the brains of people who had experienced stress in early life — like divorce or illness — were more likely to mature faster. To measure brain maturation, they tracked reductions in the volume of gray matter (GMV) — a cellularly dense tissue scattered throughout the brain. While it may sound counterintuitive that a brain gets smaller as it matures, reduction is normal during adolescence, lead researcher Anna Tyborowska, P.h.D student and researcher at , the Behavioral Science Institute (BSI) at Radboud University, tells Inverse. The general idea is that brains are born bigger than they need to be, but as life experiences highlight the most essential parts, the less crucial bits get “pruned” away.Read More