Linking brain maturation and puberty during early adolescence using longitudinal brain age prediction in the ABCD cohort

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2023 Apr:60:101220. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2023.101220. Epub 2023 Feb 22.


The temporal characteristics of adolescent neurodevelopment are shaped by a complex interplay of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Using a large longitudinal dataset of children aged 9-13 from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study we tested the associations between pubertal status and brain maturation. Brain maturation was assessed using brain age prediction based on convolutional neural networks and minimally processed T1-weighted structural MRI data. Brain age prediction provided highly accurate and reliable estimates of individual age, with an overall mean absolute error of 0.7 and 1.4 years at the two timepoints respectively, and an intraclass correlation of 0.65. Linear mixed effects (LME) models accounting for age and sex showed that on average, a one unit increase in pubertal maturational level was associated with a 2.22 months higher brain age across time points (β = 0.10, p < .001). Moreover, annualized change in pubertal development was weakly related to the rate of change in brain age (β = .047, p = 0.04). These results demonstrate a link between sexual development and brain maturation in early adolescence, and provides a basis for further investigations of the complex sociobiological impacts of puberty on life outcomes.

Keywords: Adolescence; Brain age; Puberty; Sex-difference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Puberty*
  • Sexual Maturation