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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2014 Jul;9:172-90. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2014.04.004. Epub 2014 May 2.

Methods and considerations for longitudinal structural brain imaging analysis across development.

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK; Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD, USA. Electronic address:
Research Group for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has allowed the unprecedented capability to measure the human brain in vivo. This technique has paved the way for longitudinal studies exploring brain changes across the entire life span. Results from these studies have given us a glimpse into the remarkably extended and multifaceted development of our brain, converging with evidence from anatomical and histological studies. Ever-evolving techniques and analytical methods provide new avenues to explore and questions to consider, requiring researchers to balance excitement with caution. This review addresses what MRI studies of structural brain development in children and adolescents typically measure and how. We focus on measurements of brain morphometry (e.g., volume, cortical thickness, surface area, folding patterns), as well as measurements derived from diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). By integrating finding from multiple longitudinal investigations, we give an update on current knowledge of structural brain development and how it relates to other aspects of biological development and possible underlying physiological mechanisms. Further, we review and discuss current strategies in image processing, analysis techniques and modeling of brain development. We hope this review will aid current and future longitudinal investigations of brain development, as well as evoke a discussion amongst researchers regarding best practices.


Adolescence; Childhood; DTI; MRI; Maturation; Morphometry

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