Regional Infant Brain Development: An MRI-Based Morphometric Analysis in 3 to 13 Month Olds

Fetal-Neonatal Neuroimaging and Developmental Science Center, Children's Hospital Boston.
Cerebral Cortex (Impact Factor: 8.67). 07/2012; 23(9). DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhs197
Source: PubMed


Elucidation of infant brain development is a critically important goal given the enduring impact of these early processes on various domains including later cognition and language. Although infants' whole-brain growth rates have long been available, regional growth rates have not been reported systematically. Accordingly, relatively less is known about the dynamics and organization of typically developing infant brains. Here we report global and regional volumetric growth of cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem with gender dimorphism, in 33 cross-sectional scans, over 3 to 13 months, using T(1)-weighted 3-dimensional spoiled gradient echo images and detailed semi-automated brain segmentation. Except for the midbrain and lateral ventricles, all absolute volumes of brain regions showed significant growth, with 6 different patterns of volumetric change. When normalized to the whole brain, the regional increase was characterized by 5 differential patterns. The putamen, cerebellar hemispheres, and total cerebellum were the only regions that showed positive growth in the normalized brain. Our results show region-specific patterns of volumetric change and contribute to the systematic understanding of infant brain development. This study greatly expands our knowledge of normal development and in future may provide a basis for identifying early deviation above and beyond normative variation that might signal higher risk for neurological disorders.

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