Modular Development of Cortical Gray Matter Across Childhood and Adolescence

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Brain maturation across childhood and adolescence is characterized by cortical thickness (CT) and volume contraction, and early expansion of surface area (SA). These processes occur asynchronously across the cortical surface, with functional, topographic, and network-based organizing principles proposed to account for developmental patterns. Characterizing regions undergoing synchronized development can help determine whether “maturational networks” overlap with well-described functional networks, and whether they are targeted by neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. In the present study, we modeled changes with age in CT, SA, and volume from 335 typically developing subjects in the NIH MRI study of normal brain development, with 262 followed longitudinally for a total of 724 scans. Vertices showing similar maturation between 5 and 22 years were grouped together using data-driven clustering. Patterns of CT development distinguished sensory and motor regions from association regions, and were vastly different from SA patterns, which separated anterior from posterior regions. Developmental modules showed little similarity to networks derived from resting-state functional connectivity. Our findings present a novel perspective on maturational changes across the cortex, showing that several proposed organizing principles of cortical development co-exist, albeit in different structural parameters, and enable visualization of developmental trends occurring in parallel at remote cortical sites.

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