Diffusion MRI of white matter microstructure development in childhood and adolescence: Methods, challenges and progress

Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) continues to grow in popularity as a useful neuroimaging method to study brain development, and longitudinal studies that track the same individuals over time are emerging.


Over the last decade, seminal work using dMRI has provided new insights into the development of brain white matter (WM) microstructure, connections and networks throughout childhood and adolescence. This review provides an introduction to dMRI, both diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and other dMRI models, as well as common acquisition and analysis approaches. We highlight the difficulties associated with ascribing these imaging measurements and their changes over time to specific underlying cellular and molecular events. We also discuss selected methodological challenges that are of particular relevance for studies of development, including critical choices related to image acquisition, image analysis, quality control assessment, and the within-subject and longitudinal reliability of dMRI measurements. Next, we review the exciting progress in the characterization and understanding of brain development that has resulted from dMRI studies in childhood and adolescence, including brief overviews and discussions of studies focusing on sex and individual differences. Finally, we outline future directions that will be beneficial to the field.

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2017, 10.1016/j.dcn.2017.12.002

Published Feb. 12, 2018 7:00 AM