Longitudinal characterization of white matter maturation during adolescence

Brain Res. 2010 Apr 23:1327:38-46. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.02.066. Epub 2010 Mar 2.


Background: Late adolescence is comprised of considerable developmental transitions, though brain maturational changes during this period are subtle and difficult to quantitatively evaluate from standard brain imaging acquisitions. To date, primarily cross-sectional studies have characterized typical developmental changes during adolescence, but these processes need further description within a longitudinal framework.

Method: To assess the developmental trajectory of typical white matter development, we examined 22 healthy adolescents with serial diffusion tensor images (DTI) collected at a mean age of 17.8 years and 16-months later. Diffusion parameters fractional anisotropy, and mean, radial, and axial diffusivity were subjected to whole-brain voxelwise time point comparisons using tract-based spatial statistics.

Results: At follow-up, adolescents showed a significant change (>or=153 contiguous voxels each at p<0.01) in diffusion properties, including in bilateral superior longitudinal fasciculi, superior corona radiata, anterior thalamic radiations, and posterior limb of the internal capsule. Overall, correlations with cognitive performances suggested behavioral improvement corresponding with white matter changes.

Conclusion: These longitudinal DTI findings support continued microstructural change in white matter during late adolescence, and suggest ongoing refinement of projection and association fibers into early adulthood.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Young Adult