Morphological integration of the human brain across adolescence and adulthood

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Apr 6;118(14):e2023860118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2023860118.


Brain structural covariance norms capture the coordination of neurodevelopmental programs between different brain regions. We develop and apply anatomical imbalance mapping (AIM), a method to measure and model individual deviations from these norms, to provide a lifespan map of morphological integration in the human cortex. In cross-sectional and longitudinal data, analysis of whole-brain average anatomical imbalance reveals a reproducible tightening of structural covariance by age 25 y, which loosens after the seventh decade of life. Anatomical imbalance change in development and in aging is greatest in the association cortex and least in the sensorimotor cortex. Finally, we show that interindividual variation in whole-brain average anatomical imbalance is positively correlated with a marker of human prenatal stress (birthweight disparity between monozygotic twins) and negatively correlated with general cognitive ability. This work provides methods and empirical insights to advance our understanding of coordinated anatomical organization of the human brain and its interindividual variation.

Trial registration: NCT00001246.

Keywords: cerebral cortex; development; lifespan.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biological Variation, Population
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development*
  • Connectome
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male

Associated data