Child psychiatry branch of the National Institute of Mental Health longitudinal structural magnetic resonance imaging study of human brain development

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Jan;40(1):43-9. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.236. Epub 2014 Sep 8.


The advent of magnetic resonance imaging, which safely allows in vivo quantification of anatomical and physiological features of the brain, has revolutionized pediatric neuroscience. Longitudinal studies are useful for the characterization of developmental trajectories (ie, changes in imaging measures by age). Developmental trajectories (as opposed to static measures) have proven to have greater power in discriminating healthy from clinical groups and in predicting cognitive/behavioral measures, such as IQ. Here we summarize results from an ongoing longitudinal pediatric neuroimaging study that has been conducted at the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health since 1989. Developmental trajectories of structural MRI brain measures from healthy youth are compared and contrasted with trajectories in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and childhood-onset schizophrenia. Across ages 5-25 years, in both healthy and clinical populations, white matter volumes increase and gray matter volumes follow an inverted U trajectory, with peak size occurring at different times in different regions. At a group level, differences related to psychopathology are seen for gray and white matter volumes, rates of change, and for interconnectedness among disparate brain regions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.) / trends*
  • United States