Is Your Child Immature? Let's Take a Look Under the Hood

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News, Development: Teens, Research Reveals: Teens, Health

Your 15-year-old son just threw his Xbox across the room in a wall-eyed fit. Do you sometimes question his maturity level?

Wouldn't it be nice to have doctors take a peek at his brain? They can do that, you know.

We have the technology. Almost.

The Washington Post reports scientists have a really keen new way of measuring the maturity of the brain, and it might someday provide a way for testing if kids are maturing normally and gauging whether or not teenagers are grown-up enough to be treated as adults.

No way? Way!
According to the Post, researchers in a federally funded study scanned the brains of 238 volunteers ages 7 to 30. The scans seemed to accurately measure the difference between kid and adult brains.

More research is needed, but folks in white lab coats are definitely stroking their goatees and nodding optimistically.

They tell the Post these scans potentially could be used to make sure kids are developing properly and flag the risk of autism, schizophrenia and other conditions.

"If you are worried about a kid's development, in five minutes you could do a scan and it would spit out a measurement of their brain maturity level," Nico Dosenbach, a pediatric neurology resident at St. Louis Children's Hospital who helped develop the technique, tells the Post. "That's sort of the future."

Of course, anyone who has ever seen a science fiction movie knows brain scanners can lead to all manner of malevolent machinations in the Wrong Hands.

Could parents use the test scores to push children too hard or shelter them too much? Could online dating services rate the brain maturity level of potential suitors? Could brain maturity scans be admissible in court?

The Post reports lawyers have already tried to use other types of brain scans in court, despite objections from scientists.

"I could imagine someone taking a minor who would have been charged under one set of law and say, 'No, look. They have a brain that has greater maturity and we should try them as adults'," Joseph Fins, chief of the division of medical ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, tells the Post. "I'm concerned about the potential misuse of the nascent technology."

Fins tells the newspaper people tend to oversimplify the power of brain scans.

"Ultimately, the question for all these kinds of studies is: Does the brain imaging tell us more than we would learn by observing or asking or examining the participants?" Anjan Chatterjee, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, tells the Post. "Maybe this represents a step towards that possibility, but we are not there yet."

Related: Childhood Brain Power Tied to Adult Heart Health

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.