Just watching kids play will tell you they don't think like adults, but watching their brains, might help explain why.
"What we were trying to do here is to see how the traffic if you will, becomes a signaling between different parts of the brain changes," said Vinod Menon, PhD.
Menon and his team at the Stanford School of Medicine set out to map the basic wiring of children's brains versus those young adults.
After showing a video hosted by the Sesame Street character Elmo to introduce the younger volunteers to the MRI process, Menon scanned the brains of 23 children ages seven through nine as they rested. Then they performed the same scans on a group aged 19-22.
"So one surprising finding in the study was that overall basic architecture in terms of overall wiring was very similar in 7-9-year-olds as it is in young adults 19-22 years old. But The way that each of sub networks communicated with each other is really quite different," said Menon, PhD.
He says the children's brains relied more heavily on concentrated local networks. But in the brains of young adults those networks had developed long-distance neural pathways, connecting them to other areas of the brain -- that allowed their networks to synchronize different kinds of experiences to produce more complex reasoning.
Imagine you want to make a phone call to find some information, but your phone will only allow you to dial ten feet away. Compare that to Internet access, and being able to gather information from around the world.
The Stanford study suggests that the wider networks, begin to connect somewhere around adolescence, but may not be completely established until the early 20's.
"So the systems for complex reasoning, regulating emotion integrating reward and motivational development develop much more slowly than we think," said Menon, PhD.
The Stanford team also believes the imaging study could eventually aid research into conditions such at autism and attention deficit disorder.