Puberty Changes Everything—Even the Brain

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Puberty Changes Everything—Even the Brain

Ask any parent—when a teenage boy hits puberty, the transformation can be astounding. His voice deepens. His height skyrockets. The sex hormones surge. But what about the brain? It’s changing too.

Dr. Bradley Cooke of the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University studies sex-specific neural circuitry in the amygdala. His past investigations showed increases in regional volume and soma size of the medial amygdala (MeA), a control center in the brain for behaviors that emerge during puberty like aggression and an interest in mating. In his latest study, “Synaptic Reorganisation of the Medial Amygdala During Puberty,” published in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology, Dr. Cooke set out to discover how puberty affects the medial amygdala on a synaptic level.

Dr. Cooke compared the brains of two groups of 45-day-old male Siberian hamsters. One group had completed puberty, while the others were raised in an environment that delayed puberty’s onset. Stereological examination of the hamsters’ brains confirmed increased volume and size of the pubertal MeA as outlined in previous studies, but this time, Dr. Cooke saw changes in synaptic behavior. “The results suggest that numerous excitatory synapses are added to the MeA during puberty. More broadly, they show that the pubertal emergence of sexual behavior is accompanied by synaptic reorganisation of a key network involved in the expression of sexual behavior.” Dr. Cooke explained in his paper.

To quantify indicators of synaptic activity, including puncta immunoreactive for vGlut2 [vesicular glutamate transporter-2] and PSD-95 [post-synaptic density] in nissl-stained and immunofluorescent brain sections, Dr. Cooke used Stereo Investigator. “The software/hardware rig from MBF Bioscience was essential for the success of the project,” he said.

“The support staff at MBF is one of their greatest assets, almost equal to the software itself. Everyone I have dealt with has been friendly, helpful, patient, and interested in seeing us succeed. I am so happy that I selected this company for my quantitative neuroanatomy needs.”

Read the full article “Synaptic Reorganisation of the Medial Amygdala During Puberty” in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology.

Cooke, B. M. (2011), Synaptic Reorganisation of the Medial Amygdala During Puberty. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 23: 65–73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2010.02075.x

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