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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Child Mental Health and Brain Development: 06/16/2014

Picture of Dr. Lindberg
Illustration of a human brain
Photo: Courtesy of
the National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke.

Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Here is what's new this week in MedlinePlus.listen

I’m Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine, for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the National Library of Medicine.

Here is what’s new this week in MedlinePlus.

Child mental and substance abuse disorders may be anticipated and addressed in the future by understanding a boy or girl’s neurodevelopment in addition to their behavioral patterns, suggests an interesting commentary recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Thomas Insel M.D., the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, notes health care providers currently perceive child mental health and substance abuse disorders as behavioral or developmental. Although Dr. Insel does not dispute this point, he suggests there may be an intriguing, alternative explanation. Insel explains scientists are just beginning to understand the possible links among some mental health and substance abuse disorders and a child’s neurodevelopment, or abnormal brain development.

Insel writes (and we quote): ‘Shifting from a behavioral to a neurodevelopmental focus becomes especially important as more is learned about human brain development’ (end of quote). Insel explains the human brain continues to develop well into a person’s third decade and cortical maturation is not complete until age 25.

Insel emphasizes (and we quote) ‘the prolonged period of brain development provides a template for understanding the emergence of behavioral and cognitive symptoms’ (end of quote).

For example, Insel explains recent research suggests the maturation of a child’s frontal cortex may be two to three years delayed in some kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While Insel acknowledges frontal cortex symptoms suggest the presence of a disorder, the finding explains little about underlying mechanisms (or why a possible link exists between ADHD and the frontal cortex development within a child’s brain).

Insel explains (and we quote): ‘the hunt is on for predictive, brain-based biomarkers or cognitive tests to identify the presymptomatic phases of several neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia’ (end of quote).

Insel adds an urgency to find innovative approaches to assist kids with mental illness and substance abuse is influenced by recent research that suggests both are the predominant noncommunicable disorders among children. In addition, Insel notes 50 percent of adults with mental disorders report their onset occurred by age 14 or younger.

Insel writes (and we quote): ‘mental and substance abuse disorders are common and disabling in young people, with profound consequences for health, economic, and social outcomes throughout the life span. The enormity of this public health challenge is increased by the limited understanding of the cause and treatment of these disorders’ (end of quote).

Insel concludes it is time to shift from an exclusive focus on behavior and symptom-based diagnoses of mental health and substance abuse and attain a deeper understanding of the neurodevelopmental trajectories among boys and girls. Once the latter occurs, Insel notes the results may open a door to new, alternative treatments to support a child’s brain development and overall health.

 Meanwhile, Dr. Insel’s agency - the National Institute on Mental Health - provides an overview of child and adolescent mental health within the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s child mental health health topic page. A website from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry provides advise about when to seek help for a child in the ‘diagnosis/symptoms’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s child mental health health topic page

Links to specific, evidence-based information about childhood depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety, and child traumatic stress are available within the ‘specific conditions’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s child mental health health topic page

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry also provides valuable information about talking to kids about mental illness, which is found in the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s child mental health health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s child mental health health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about child mental health as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s child mental health disease health topic page type ‘child mental health’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘child mental health (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also has comprehensive health topic pages on child behavior disorders and mental health and behavior.

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Please email Dr. Lindberg anytime at: NLMDirector@nlm.nih.gov

That's NLMDirector (one word) @nlm.nih.gov

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. I look forward to meeting you here next week.