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Cereb Cortex. 2015 Jun;25(6):1477-89. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht333. Epub 2013 Dec 15.

Preferential detachment during human brain development: age- and sex-specific structural connectivity in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data.

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Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-747, South Korea School of Computing Science and Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK.
Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-747, South Korea Department of Biomedical Engineering, Korea University, Seoul 136-703, South Korea.
Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QB, UK Department of Neurophysiology, Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research, 60438 Frankfurt a. M., Germany Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI) for Neuroscience in Cooperation with Max Planck Society, Deutschordenstr. 46, Frankfurt am Main, 60528, Germany.


Human brain maturation is characterized by the prolonged development of structural and functional properties of large-scale networks that extends into adulthood. However, it is not clearly understood which features change and which remain stable over time. Here, we examined structural connectivity based on diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in 121 participants between 4 and 40 years of age. DTI data were analyzed for small-world parameters, modularity, and the number of fiber tracts at the level of streamlines. First, our findings showed that the number of fiber tracts, small-world topology, and modular organization remained largely stable despite a substantial overall decrease in the number of streamlines with age. Second, this decrease mainly affected fiber tracts that had a large number of streamlines, were short, within modules and within hemispheres; such connections were affected significantly more often than would be expected given their number of occurrences in the network. Third, streamline loss occurred earlier in females than in males. In summary, our findings suggest that core properties of structural brain connectivity, such as the small-world and modular organization, remain stable during brain maturation by focusing streamline loss to specific types of fiber tracts.


brain connectivity; connectome; maturation; network analysis; tractography

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