Structural connectivity of the developing human amygdala

PLoS One. 2015 Apr 15;10(4):e0125170. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125170. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

A large corpus of research suggests that there are changes in the manner and degree to which the amygdala supports cognitive and emotional function across development. One possible basis for these developmental differences could be the maturation of amygdalar connections with the rest of the brain. Recent functional connectivity studies support this conclusion, but the structural connectivity of the developing amygdala and its different nuclei remains largely unstudied. We examined age related changes in the DWI connectivity fingerprints of the amygdala to the rest of the brain in 166 individuals of ages 5-30. We also developed a model to predict age based on individual-subject amygdala connectivity, and identified the connections that were most predictive of age. Finally, we segmented the amygdala into its four main nucleus groups, and examined the developmental changes in connectivity for each nucleus. We observed that with age, amygdalar connectivity becomes increasingly sparse and localized. Age related changes were largely localized to the subregions of the amygdala that are implicated in social inference and contextual memory (the basal and lateral nuclei). The central nucleus' connectivity also showed differences with age but these differences affected fewer target regions than the basal and lateral nuclei. The medial nucleus did not exhibit any age related changes. These findings demonstrate increasing specificity in the connectivity patterns of amygdalar nuclei across age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology*
  • Amygdala / growth & development*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology*
  • Nerve Net / growth & development*
  • Organ Size
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/M9.FIGSHARE.1300084

Grant support

This work was supported by funds from the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars Program, the Ellison Medical Foundation, Simons Foundation and Simons Center for the Social Brain at MIT, and the Poitras Center for Affective Disorders Research. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.