Brain develops `till the age of 40`

Updated: Dec 16, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: Throwing tantrums in middle age? Your brain is still learning to be adult, say researchers.

A new study by University College London has claimed that the human brain does not stop developing until people are in their 30s or 40s -- meaning that many still have something of the teenager about them long after they have become adults.

The finding could perhaps help explain why seemingly respectable adults sometimes just can`t resist throwing a tantrum or sulking until they get their own way, the `Daily
Mail` reported.

Lead researcher Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore said: "Until about 10 years ago, it was pretty much assumed that the human brain stops developing in early childhood. But we now know that is far from the truth, in fact most regions of the human brain continue to develop for many decades.

"The region that goes through the most protracted development is the pre-frontal cortex at the front of the brain. It is involved in decision-making, planning and inhibiting inappropriate social behaviour and also things like social awareness and understanding other people and empathy.

"This region starts to develop very early on after conception and continues to develop right through childhood and undergoes a reorganisation at the onset of puberty. It
continues to develop well into a person`s 30s and even 40s.

"It is involved in all sorts of cognitive functions that in a way make us human."
Although a person can continue to learn new skills after this, the basic structural changes driven by genes and biology rather than by what they are seeing or doing will tend to have been completed. And, eventually, the deterioration associated with old age will set in.

PTI