Development of the uncinate fasciculus: Implications for theory and developmental disorders

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2015 Aug;14:50-61. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2015.06.003. Epub 2015 Jun 23.


The uncinate fasciculus (UF) is a long-range white matter tract that connects limbic regions in the temporal lobe to the frontal lobe. The UF is one of the latest developing tracts, and continues maturing into the third decade of life. As such, individual differences in the maturational profile of the UF may serve to explain differences in behavior. Indeed, atypical macrostructure and microstructure of the UF have been reported in numerous studies of individuals with developmental and psychiatric disorders such as social deprivation and maltreatment, autism spectrum disorders, conduct disorder, risk taking, and substance abuse. The present review evaluates what we currently know about the UF's developmental trajectory and reviews the literature relating UF abnormalities to specific disorders. Additionally, we take a dimensional approach and critically examine symptoms and behavioral impairments that have been demonstrated to cluster with UF aberrations, in an effort to relate these impairments to our speculations regarding the functionality of the UF. We suggest that developmental disorders with core problems relating to memory retrieval, reward and valuation computation, and impulsive decision making may be linked to aberrations in uncinate microstructure.

Keywords: Anti-social personality disorder; Autism; Conduct disorder; Diffusion tensor imaging; Orbitofrontal cortex; White matter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Developmental Disabilities / pathology*
  • Frontal Lobe / growth & development*
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / growth & development*
  • Limbic System / pathology*
  • Mental Disorders / pathology*
  • Temporal Lobe / growth & development*
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology*