Sarah Knapton, Telegraph (London), December 20, 2013
It is a well known truism that girls mature faster than boys.
But now scientists have discovered for the first time that their brains can develop up to ten years earlier than boys.
Newcastle University stumbled upon the finding while conducting experiments into how the brain stores information.
They discovered that as the brain matures it begins to ‘prune’ information that is stored and focus on what is important.
For girls this can happen as early as 10 years old, but for boys it can take until between 15 and 20 for the same.
Dr Marcus Kaiser said: “Completely by accident we found there is a difference between boys and girls in terms of development.
“We found that the brain begins to prune neural connections which it does not think are important.”
During this process similar memories or sounds or sights that appear in the brain several times will be shut off.
Researcher Sol Lim said: “The loss of connectivity during brain development can actually help to improve brain function by reorganizing the network more efficiently.
“Say instead of talking to many people at random, asking a couple of people who have lived in the area for a long time is the most efficient way to know your way.
“In a similar way, reducing some projections in the brain helps to focus on essential information.”
Only important connections, like linking the sound of a familiar person’s voice to their face are preserved.
But while scanning the brains of 121 volunteers between the ages of four and 40 they discovered significant differences.
“Previous studies have shown that the brain does a lot of re-organising during puberty, there is greater activity during this time, “ said Dr Kaiser.
“But it was rather unexpected to find that these changes were starting much earlier in girls in comparison with boys.
“Around 10 to 12 you start to see a lot of activity in the brains of girls as this pruning takes place, but it was between 15 to 20 for boys.
The work is part of the EPSRC-funded Human Green Brain project which examines human brain development and is published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.