Early human brain development: Starring the subplate

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Abstract

This review summarizes early human brain development on the basis of neuroanatomical data and functional connectomics. It indicates that the most significant changes in the brain occur during the second half of gestation and the first three months post-term, in particular in the cortical subplate and cerebellum. As the transient subplate pairs a high rate of intricate developmental changes and interactions with clear functional activity, two phases of development are distinguished: a) the transient cortical subplate phase, ending at 3 months post-term when the permanent circuitries in the primary motor, somatosensory and visual cortices have replaced the subplate; and subsequently, b) the phase in which the permanent circuitries dominate. In the association areas the subplate dissolves in the remainder of the first postnatal year. During both phases developmental changes are paralleled by continuous reconfigurations in network activity. The reviewed literature also suggests that disruption of subplate development may play a pivotal role in developmental disorders, such as cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia.

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