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PLoS One. 2014 May 1;9(5):e94423. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094423. eCollection 2014.

Intrinsic functional brain architecture derived from graph theoretical analysis in the human fetus.

Author information

1
Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America; Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America; Perinatology Research Branch, NICHD/NIH/DHHS, Bethesda, Maryland and Detroit, Michigan, United States of America.
2
Department of Neurology, University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California, United States of America.
3
Basic Medical Sciences Program, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America.
4
Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America.
5
Perinatology Research Branch, NICHD/NIH/DHHS, Bethesda, Maryland and Detroit, Michigan, United States of America; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America.
6
Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America; Department of Radiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America.
7
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, United States of America.
8
Perinatology Research Branch, NICHD/NIH/DHHS, Bethesda, Maryland and Detroit, Michigan, United States of America.

Abstract

The human brain undergoes dramatic maturational changes during late stages of fetal and early postnatal life. The importance of this period to the establishment of healthy neural connectivity is apparent in the high incidence of neural injury in preterm infants, in whom untimely exposure to ex-uterine factors interrupts neural connectivity. Though the relevance of this period to human neuroscience is apparent, little is known about functional neural networks in human fetal life. Here, we apply graph theoretical analysis to examine human fetal brain connectivity. Utilizing resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from 33 healthy human fetuses, 19 to 39 weeks gestational age (GA), our analyses reveal that the human fetal brain has modular organization and modules overlap functional systems observed postnatally. Age-related differences between younger (GA <31 weeks) and older (GA≥31 weeks) fetuses demonstrate that brain modularity decreases, and connectivity of the posterior cingulate to other brain networks becomes more negative, with advancing GA. By mimicking functional principles observed postnatally, these results support early emerging capacity for information processing in the human fetal brain. Current technical limitations, as well as the potential for fetal fMRI to one day produce major discoveries about fetal origins or antecedents of neural injury or disease are discussed.

PMID:
24788455
PMCID:
PMC4006774
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0094423
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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