Development of cortical and subcortical brain structures in childhood and adolescence: a structural MRI study

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2002 Jan;44(1):4-16. doi: 10.1017/s0012162201001591.


The purpose of the present study was to describe in greater anatomical detail the changes in brain structure that occur during maturation between childhood and adolescence. High-resolution MRI, tissue classification, and anatomical segmentation of cortical and subcortical regions were used in a sample of 35 normally developing children and adolescents between 7 and 16 years of age (mean age 11 years; 20 males, 15 females). Each cortical and subcortical measure was examined for age and sex effects on raw volumes and on the measures as proportions of total supratentorial cranial volume. Results indicate age-related increases in total supratentorial cranial volume and raw and proportional increases in total cerebral white matter. Gray-matter volume reductions were only observed once variance in total brain size was proportionally controlled. The change in total cerebral white-matter proportion was significantly greater than the change in total cerebral gray-matter proportion over this age range, suggesting that the relative gray-matter reduction is probably due to significant increases in white matter. Total raw cerebral CSF volume increases were also observed. Within the cerebrum, regional patterns varied depending on the tissue (or CSF) assessed. Only frontal and parietal cortices showed changes in gray matter, white matter, and CSF measures. Once the approximately 7% larger brain volume in males was controlled, only mesial temporal cortex, caudate, thalamus, and basomesial diencephalic structures showed sex effects with the females having greater relative volumes in these regions than the males. Overall, these results are consistent with earlier reports and describe in greater detail the regional pattern of age-related differences in gray and white matter in normally developing children and adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male