A cross-sectional and longitudinal study of human brain development: The integration of cortical thickness, surface area, gyrification index, and cortical curvature into a unified analytical framework

Neuroimage. 2023 Mar;268:119885. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2023.119885. Epub 2023 Jan 16.


Brain maturation studies typically examine relationships linking a single morphometric feature with cognition, behavior, age, or other demographic characteristics. However, the coordinated spatiotemporal arrangement of morphological features across development and their associations with behavior are unclear. Here, we examine covariation across multiple cortical features (cortical thickness [CT], surface area [SA], local gyrification index [GI], and mean curvature [MC]) using magnetic resonance images from the NIMH developmental cohort (ages 5-25). Neuroanatomical covariance was examined using non-negative matrix factorization (NMF), which decomposes covariance resulting in a parts-based representation. Cross-sectionally, we identified six components of covariation which demonstrate differential contributions of CT, GI, and SA in hetero- vs. unimodal areas. Using this technique to examine covariance in rates of change to identify longitudinal sources of covariance highlighted preserved SA in unimodal areas and changes in CT and GI in heteromodal areas. Using behavioral partial least squares (PLS), we identified a single latent variable (LV) that recapitulated patterns of reduced CT, GI, and SA related to older age, with limited contributions of IQ and SES. Longitudinally, PLS revealed three LVs that demonstrated a nuanced developmental pattern that highlighted a higher rate of maturational change in SA and CT in higher IQ and SES females. Finally, we situated the components in the changing architecture of cortical gradients. This novel characterization of brain maturation provides an important understanding of the interdependencies between morphological measures, their coordinated development, and their relationship to biological sex, cognitive ability, and the resources of the local environment.

Keywords: Brain development; Cortical morphometry; Demographics; MRI; Maturational gradients; Non-negative matrix factorization.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain* / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex* / anatomy & histology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Young Adult