Normative development of white matter tracts: similarities and differences in relation to age, gender, and intelligence

Cereb Cortex. 2012 Aug;22(8):1738-47. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr243. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


The white matter of the brain undergoes a range of structural changes throughout development; from conception to birth, in infancy, and onwards through childhood and adolescence. Several studies have used diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) to investigate these changes, but a consensus has not yet emerged on which white matter tracts undergo changes in the later stages of development or what the most important driving factors are behind these changes. In this study of typically developing 8- to 16-year-old children, we use a comprehensive data-driven approach based on principal components analysis to identify effects of age, gender, and brain volume on dMRI parameters, as well as their relative importance. We also show that secondary components of these parameters predict full-scale IQ, independently of the age- and gender-related effects. This overarching assessment of the common factors and gender differences in normal white matter tract development will help to advance understanding of this process in late childhood and adolescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Intelligence / physiology*
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated*
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Sex Characteristics*