Relationships between Brain Activation and Brain Structure in Normally Developing Children

UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, Department of Neurology, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Cerebral Cortex (Impact Factor: 8.67). 03/2009; 19(11):2595-604. DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhp011
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Dynamic changes in brain structure, activation, and cognitive abilities co-occur during development, but little is known about how changes in brain structure relate to changes in cognitive function or brain activity. By using cortical pattern matching techniques to correlate cortical gray matter thickness and functional brain activity over the entire brain surface in 24 typically developing children, we integrated structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging data with cognitive test scores to identify correlates of mature performance during orthographic processing. Fast-naming individuals activated the right fronto-parietal attention network in response to novel fonts more than slow-naming individuals, and increased activation of this network was correlated with more mature brain morphology in the same fronto-parietal region. These relationships remained even after effects of age or general cognitive ability were statistically controlled. These results localized cortical regions where mature morphology corresponds to mature patterns of activation, and may suggest a role for experience in mediating brain structure-activation relationships.

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    • "Indeed, highly salient and impactful social contexts in adolescence, such as being embedded in hostile parent-child interactions or in exciting, accepting peer environments, likely interact with neurobiologically-based individual differences in shaping subsequent outcomes. Theoretical frameworks concerning neurobiological susceptibility (Ellis et al., 2011), also known as biological sensitivity to context (Boyce and Ellis, 2005), differential susceptibility to environmental influences (Belsky et al., 2007; Belsky and Pluess, 2009), and sensory processing sensitivity (Aron and Aron, 1997), provide a valuable model for considering how an adolescent's level of neurobiological sensitivity might moderate the influence of social contexts on development. These models suggest that individuals vary in their sensitivity to their environments, with some more affected than others. "
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    • "However, there is currently no direct way to test the relationship between number of synapses, synaptic activity, and neural activity as measured by fMRI in humans (see Blakemore, 2008, for discussion), although structural MRI measures could already provide some information . Understanding the link between structural and functional changes is critical in understanding the mechanisms of neurocognitive development, yet very few studies have directly compared structural and functional data within the same individuals (Lu et al., 2009; Olesen, Nagy, Westerberg, & Klingberg, 2003). An alternative account of the decrease in MPFC recruitment during adolescence relates to the nature of the experimental paradigms used in the studies described above. "
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    • "Therefore, within the group of EB, areas with a thinner cortex should be associated with more effective function, so negative correlations between CT and magnitude of activation might be expected. Consistent with this prediction, most studies in which relationships between cortical structure and function have been tested suggest a negative correlation between CT and activation in typically developing children and adults, that is, thinner cortex is activated more strongly (Rasser et al. 2005; Lu et al. 2009; Nunez et al. 2011). To our knowledge, only one study has shown a positive correlation between CT and functional activation in a limbic structure, the anterior cingulate cortex (Hegarty et al. 2012). "
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