Longitudinal development of cortical and subcortical gray matter from birth to 2 years

Cereb Cortex. 2012 Nov;22(11):2478-85. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr327. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


Very little is known about cortical development in the first years of life, a time of rapid cognitive development and risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. We studied regional cortical and subcortical gray matter volume growth in a group of 72 children who underwent magnetic resonance scanning after birth and at ages 1 and 2 years using a novel longitudinal registration/parcellation approach. Overall, cortical gray matter volumes increased substantially (106%) in the first year of life and less so in the second year (18%). We found marked regional differences in developmental rates, with primary motor and sensory cortices growing slower in the first year of life with association cortices growing more rapidly. In the second year of life, primary sensory regions continued to grow more slowly, while frontal and parietal regions developed relatively more quickly. The hippocampus grew less than other subcortical structures such as the amygdala and thalamus in the first year of life. It is likely that these patterns of regional gray matter growth reflect maturation and development of underlying function, as they are consistent with cognitive and functional development in the first years of life.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Asian Americans
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Twins