Purpose: To quantitate neuroanatomic parameters in healthy volunteers and to compare the values with normative values from postmortem studies.
Materials and methods: Magnetic resonance (MR) images of 116 volunteers aged 19 months to 80 years were analyzed with semiautomated procedures validated by means of comparison with manual tracings. Volumes measured included intracranial space, whole brain, gray matter (GM), white matter (WM), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Results were compared with values from previous postmortem studies.
Results: Whole brain and intracranial space grew by 25%-27% between early childhood (mean age, 26 months; age range, 19-33 months) and adolescence (mean age, 14 years; age range, 12-15 years); thereafter, whole-brain volume decreased such that volunteers (age range, 71-80 years) had volumes similar to those of young children. GM increased 13% from early to later (6-9 years) childhood. Thereafter, GM increased more slowly and reached a plateau in the 4th decade; it decreased by 13% in the oldest volunteers. The GM-WM ratio decreased exponentially from early childhood through the 4th decade; thereafter, it gradually declined. In vivo patterns of change in the intracranial space, whole brain, and GM-WM ratio agreed with published postmortem data.
Conclusion: MR images accurately depict normal patterns of age-related change in intracranial space, whole brain, GM, WM, and CSF. These quantitative MR imaging data can be used in research studies and clinical settings for the detection of abnormalities in fundamental neuroanatomic parameters.