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Dev Neurosci. 2012;34(6):477-87. doi: 10.1159/000345152. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

Developmental trajectories of the fronto-temporal lobes from infancy to early adulthood in healthy individuals.

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Department of Pediatrics, Graduate School of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Toyama, Toyama, Japan.


Brain development during early life in healthy individuals is rapid and dynamic, indicating that this period plays a very important role in neural and functional development. The frontal and temporal lobes are known to play a particularly important role in cognition. The study of healthy frontal and temporal lobe development in children is therefore of considerable importance. A better understanding of how these brain regions develop could also aid in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. Some developmental studies have used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine infant brains, but it remains the case that relatively little is known about cortical brain development in the first few years of life. In the present study we examined whole brain, temporal lobe and frontal lobe developmental trajectories from infancy to early adulthood in healthy individuals, considering gender and brain hemisphere differences. We performed a cross-sectional, longitudinal morphometric MRI study of 114 healthy individuals (54 females and 60 males) aged 1 month to 25 years old (mean age ± SD 8.8 ± 6.9). We measured whole brain, temporal and frontal lobe gray matter (GM)/white matter (WM) volumes, following previously used protocols. There were significant non-linear age-related volume changes in all regions. Peak ages of whole brain, temporal lobe and frontal lobe development occurred around pre-adolescence (9-12 years old). GM volumes for all regions increased significantly as a function of age. Peak age was nevertheless lobe specific, with a pattern of earlier peak ages for females in both temporal and frontal lobes. Growth change in whole brain GM volume was larger in males than in females. However, GM volume growth changes for the temporal and frontal lobes showed a somewhat different pattern. GM volume for both temporal and frontal lobes showed a greater increase in females until around 5-6 years old, at which point this tendency reversed (GM volume changes in males became greater), with male GM volume increasing for a longer time than that of females. WM volume growth changes were similar across regions, all increasing rapidly until early childhood but slowing down thereafter. All regions displayed significant rightward volumetric asymmetry regardless of sex. Furthermore, the right temporal and frontal lobes showed a greater volumetric increase than the left for the first several years, with this tendency reversing at around 6 years of age. In addition, the left frontal and temporal lobes increased in volume for a longer period of time. Taken together, these findings indicated that brain developmental trajectories differ depending on brain region, sex and brain hemisphere. Gender-related factors such as sex hormones and functional laterality may affect brain development.

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