Although the amygdala's role in shaping social behavior is especially important during early post-natal development, very little is known of amygdala functional development before childhood. To address this gap, this study uses resting-state fMRI to examine early amygdalar functional network development in a cross-sectional sample of 80 children from 3-months to 5-years of age. Whole brain functional connectivity with the amygdala, and its laterobasal and superficial sub-regions, were largely similar to those seen in older children and adults. Functional distinctions between sub-region networks were already established. These patterns suggest many amygdala functional circuits are intact from infancy, especially those that are part of motor, visual, auditory and subcortical networks. Developmental changes in connectivity were observed between the laterobasal nucleus and bilateral ventral temporal and motor cortex as well as between the superficial nuclei and medial thalamus, occipital cortex and a different region of motor cortex. These results show amygdala-subcortical and sensory-cortex connectivity begins refinement prior to childhood, though connectivity changes with associative and frontal cortical areas, seen after early childhood, were not evident in this age range. These findings represent early steps in understanding amygdala network dynamics across infancy through early childhood, an important period of emotional and cognitive development.
Keywords: Amygdala; Development; Early childhood; Functional connectivity; Infancy; Resting-State.
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