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J Neurosci. 2009 Sep 23;29(38):11772-82. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1242-09.2009.

Heterogeneity in subcortical brain development: A structural magnetic resonance imaging study of brain maturation from 8 to 30 years.

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  • 1Center for the Study of Human Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway.


Brain development during late childhood and adolescence is characterized by decreases in gray matter (GM) and increases in white matter (WM) and ventricular volume. The dynamic nature of development across different structures is, however, not well understood, and the present magnetic resonance imaging study took advantage of a whole-brain segmentation approach to describe the developmental trajectories of 16 neuroanatomical volumes in the same sample of children, adolescents, and young adults (n = 171; range, 8-30 years). The cerebral cortex, cerebral WM, caudate, putamen, pallidum, accumbens area, hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, brainstem, cerebellar GM, cerebellar WM, lateral ventricles, inferior lateral ventricles, third ventricle, and fourth ventricle were studied. The cerebral cortex was further analyzed in terms of lobar thickness and surface area. The results revealed substantial heterogeneity in developmental trajectories. GM decreased nonlinearly in the cerebral cortex and linearly in the caudate, putamen, pallidum, accumbens, and cerebellar GM, whereas the amygdala and hippocampus showed slight, nonlinear increases in GM volume. WM increased nonlinearly in both the cerebrum and cerebellum, with an earlier maturation in cerebellar WM. In addition to similarities in developmental trajectories within subcortical regions, our results also point to differences between structures within the same regions: among the basal ganglia, the caudate showed a weaker relationship with age than the putamen and pallidum, and in the cerebellum, differences were found between GM and WM development. These results emphasize the importance of studying a wide range of structural variables in the same sample, for a broader understanding of brain developmental principles.

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