In the latter half of gestation (20-40 gestational weeks), human brain growth accelerates in conjunction with cortical folding and the deceleration of ventricular zone progenitor cell proliferation. These processes are reflected in changes in the volume of respective fetal tissue zones. Thus far, growth trajectories of the fetal tissue zones have been extracted primarily from 2D measurements on histological sections and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In this study, the volumes of major fetal zones-cortical plate (CP), subplate and intermediate zone (SP+IZ), germinal matrix (GMAT), deep gray nuclei (DG), and ventricles (VENT)--are calculated from automatic segmentation of motion-corrected, 3D reconstructed MRI. We analyzed 48 T2-weighted MRI scans from 39 normally developing fetuses in utero between 20.57 and 31.14 gestational weeks (GW). The supratentorial volume (STV) increased linearly at a rate of 15.22% per week. The SP+IZ (14.75% per week) and DG (15.56% per week) volumes increased at similar rates. The CP increased at a greater relative rate (18.00% per week), while the VENT (9.18% per week) changed more slowly. Therefore, CP increased as a fraction of STV and the VENT fraction declined. The total GMAT volume slightly increased then decreased after 25 GW. We did not detect volumetric sexual dimorphisms or total hemispheric volume asymmetries, which may emerge later in gestation. Further application of the automated fetal brain segmentation to later gestational ages will bridge the gap between volumetric studies of premature brain development and normal brain development in utero.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.