The onset peaks for many mental health disorders and problems in adolescence parallels substantial maturational changes in the brain.
Thanks to advances in neuroimaging over the last two decades, particularly in acquisition and analysis of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, we now have detailed knowledge about the multifaceted and regional maturational processes taking place in the brain across childhood and adolescence.
Further large-scale studies and longitudinal studies are needed to investigate the intricate links between structural and functional brain maturational processes and emerging mental health problems in adolescence, to discover genetic, environmental, and psychosocial risk and protective factors, and to understand the neurocognitive developmental basis of socioeconomic, psychosocial and sex gradients in mental health.
About the group
The Neurocognitive Development group will focus on three important elements of daily life of youth.
First, recent studies have documented relations between socioeconomic status and cognition and brain structure and function. These associations have, however, not been explored in countries with high equality, such as Norway, and the involved mechanisms are poorly understood. Studies directly testing the hypothesis that relatively low socioeconomic status can alter mental health outcomes via neurocognitive developmental processes are also needed.
Second, it is known that adolescence is a period of life that involves novel psychosocial demands and challenges, such as increasing independence from parents and a need to navigate increasingly complex and intimate relationships with peers. A key aspect is thus to investigate psychosocial factors important to the everyday life of adolescents.
Third, the large sex differences in the prevalence of many mental health disorders and in substance abuse stand in contrast to the more subtle or inconclusive evidence for mean sex differences in brain development. This discrepancy suggests that we need to move beyond analyzing mean levels, and we have recently shown sex differences in variability in brain measures. This might have functional and clinical implications, and constitute a promising research avenue.
The overarching goal of this research group is to discover how neurocognitive developmental processes, in interplay with demographic and psychosocial factors, may augment risk or promote resilience for mental health problems during adolescence.
By using data from
1) large open international datasets
2) unique existing longitudinal projects lead by the group members and collaborators
3) collecting new data with an unprecedented fusion of methods and measures
the work of the research group will provide unique opportunities to understand the neurocognitive developmental processes of emerging mental health problems and their gradients.