Global and local development of gray and white matter volume in normal children and adolescents

Exp Brain Res. 2007 Apr;178(3):296-307. doi: 10.1007/s00221-006-0732-z. Epub 2006 Oct 19.


Over the last decade, non-invasive, high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging has allowed investigating normal brain development. However, much is still not known in this context, especially with regard to regional differences in brain morphology between genders. We conducted a large-scale study utilizing fully automated analysis-approaches, using high-resolution MR-imaging data from 200 normal children and aimed at providing reference data for future neuroimaging studies. Global and local aspects of normal development of gray and white matter volume were investigated as a function of age and gender while covarying for known nuisance variables. Global developmental patterns were apparent in both gray and white matter, with gray matter decreasing and white matter increasing significantly with age. Gray matter loss was most pronounced in the parietal lobes and least in the cingulate and in posterior temporal regions. White matter volume gains with age were almost uniform, with an accentuation of the pyramidal tract. Gender influences were detectable for both gray and white matter. Voxel-based analyses confirmed significant differences in brain morphology between genders, like a larger amygdala in boys or a larger caudate in girls. We could demonstrate profound influences of both age and gender on normal brain morphology, confirming and extending earlier studies. The knowledge of such influence allows for the consideration of age- and gender-effects in future pediatric neuroimaging studies and advances our understanding of normal and abnormal brain development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Anthropometry / instrumentation
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Mapping / instrumentation
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / ultrastructure
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors