Neurodevelopmental MRI brain templates for children from 2 weeks to 4 years of age

Dev Psychobiol. 2012 Jan;54(1):77-91. doi: 10.1002/dev.20579. Epub 2011 Jun 17.


Spatial normalization and segmentation of pediatric brain magnetic resonance images (MRI) data with adult templates may impose biases and limitations in pediatric neuroimaging work. To remedy this issue, we created a single database made up of a series of pediatric, age-specific MRI average brain templates. These average, age-specific templates were constructed from brain scans of individual children obtained from two sources: (1) the NIH MRI Study of Normal Brain Development and (2) MRIs from University of South Carolina's McCausland Brain Imaging Center. Participants included young children enrolled at ages ranging from 8 days through 4.3 years of age. A total of 13 age group cohorts spanning the developmental progression from birth through 4.3 years of age were used to construct age-specific MRI brain templates (2 weeks, 3, 4.5, 6, 7.5, 9, 12, 15, 18 months, 2, 2.5, 3, 4 years). Widely used processing programs (FSL, SPM, and ANTS) extracted the brain and constructed average templates separately for 1.5T and 3T MRI volumes. The resulting age-specific, average templates showed clear changes in head and brain size across ages and between males and females, as well as changes in regional brain structural characteristics (e.g., myelin development). This average brain template database is available via our website ( for use by other researchers. Use of these age-specific, average pediatric brain templates by the research community will enhance our ability to gain a clearer understanding of the early postnatal development of the human brain in health and in disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Reference Values