Maturational trajectories of pericortical contrast in typical brain development

Neuroimage. 2021 Jul 15;235:117974. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.117974. Epub 2021 Mar 22.


In the last few years, a significant amount of work has aimed to characterize maturational trajectories of cortical development. The role of pericortical microstructure putatively characterized as the gray-white matter contrast (GWC) at the pericortical gray-white matter boundary and its relationship to more traditional morphological measures of cortical morphometry has emerged as a means to examine finer grained neuroanatomical underpinnings of cortical changes. In this work, we characterize the GWC developmental trajectories in a representative sample (n = 394) of children and adolescents (~4 to ~22 years of age), with repeated scans (1-3 scans per subject, total scans n = 819). We tested whether linear, quadratic, or cubic trajectories of contrast development best described changes in GWC. A best-fit model was identified vertex-wise across the whole cortex via the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC). GWC across nearly the whole brain was found to significantly change with age. Cubic trajectories were likeliest for 63% of vertices, quadratic trajectories were likeliest for 20% of vertices, and linear trajectories were likeliest for 16% of vertices. A main effect of sex was observed in some regions, where males had a higher GWC than females. However, no sex by age interactions were found on GWC. In summary, our results suggest a progressive decrease in GWC at the pericortical boundary throughout childhood and adolescence. This work contributes to efforts seeking to characterize typical, healthy brain development and, by extension, can help elucidate aberrant developmental trajectories.

Keywords: Adolescence; Brain development; Childhood; Cortical contrast; Gray-white contrast; Structural MRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex* / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex* / growth & development
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gray Matter* / anatomy & histology
  • Gray Matter* / diagnostic imaging
  • Gray Matter* / growth & development
  • Human Development* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • White Matter* / anatomy & histology
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter* / growth & development
  • Young Adult