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Annu Rev Psychol. 2015 Jan 3;66:853-76. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015340.

Diffusion tensor imaging for understanding brain development in early life.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering and Clinical Imaging Research Center, National University of Singapore, 117576 Singapore; email:


The human brain rapidly develops during the final weeks of gestation and in the first two years following birth. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a unique in vivo imaging technique that allows three-dimensional visualization of the white matter anatomy in the brain. It has been considered to be a valuable tool for studying brain development in early life. In this review, we first introduce the DTI technique. We then review DTI findings on white matter development at the fetal stage and in infancy as well as DTI applications for understanding neurocognitive development and brain abnormalities in preterm infants. Finally, we discuss limitations of DTI and potential valuable imaging techniques for studying white matter myelination.


brain development; diffusion tensor imaging; infancy; magnetic resonance imaging; myelination; white matter

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