The NIH MRI study of normal brain development

Neuroimage. 2006 Mar;30(1):184-202. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.09.068. Epub 2006 Jan 11.


MRI is increasingly used to study normal and abnormal brain development, but we lack a clear understanding of "normal". Previous studies have been limited by small samples, narrow age ranges and few behavioral measures. This multi-center project conducted epidemiologically based recruitment of a large, demographically balanced sample across a wide age range, using strict exclusion factors and comprehensive clinical/behavioral measures. A mixed cross-sectional and longitudinal design was used to create a MRI/clinical/behavioral database from approximately 500 children aged 7 days to 18 years to be shared with researchers and the clinical medicine community. Using a uniform acquisition protocol, data were collected at six Pediatric Study Centers and consolidated at a Data Coordinating Center. All data were transferred via a web-network into a MYSQL database that allowed (i) secure data transfer, (ii) automated MRI segmentation, (iii) correlation of neuroanatomical and clinical/behavioral variables as 3D statistical maps and (iv) remote interrogation and 3D viewing of database content. A population-based epidemiologic sampling strategy minimizes bias and enhances generalizability of the results. Target accrual tables reflect the demographics of the U.S. population (2000 Census data). Enrolled subjects underwent a standardized protocol to characterize neurobehavioral and pubertal status. All subjects underwent multi-spectral structural MRI. In a subset, we acquired T1/T2 relaxometry, diffusion tensor imaging, single-voxel proton spectroscopy and spectroscopic imaging. In the first of three cycles, successful structural MRI data were acquired in 392 subjects aged 4:6-18:3 years and in 72 subjects aged 7 days to 4:6 years. We describe the methodologies of MRI data acquisition and analysis, using illustrative results. This database will provide a basis for characterizing healthy brain maturation in relationship to behavior and serve as a source of control data for studies of childhood disorders. All data described here will be available to the scientific community from July, 2006.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Databases, Factual
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mathematical Computing
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)*
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Statistics as Topic
  • United States