New insights into the dynamic development of the cerebral cortex in childhood and adolescence: Integrating macro- and microstructural MRI findings

Through dynamic transactional processes between genetic and environmental factors, childhood and adolescence involve reorganization and optimization of the cerebral cortex.

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The cortex and its development plays a crucial role for prototypical human cognitive abilities. At the same time, many common mental disorders appear during these critical phases of neurodevelopment. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can indirectly capture several multifaceted changes of cortical macro- and microstructure, of high relevance to further our under-standing of the neural foundation of cognition and mental health. Great progress has been made recently in mapping the typical development of cortical morphology. Moreover, newer less explored MRI signal intensity and specialized quantitative T2 measures have been applied to assess microstructural cortical development. We review recent findings of typical postnatal macro- and microstructural development of the cerebral cortex from early childhood to young adulthood. We cover studies of cortical volume, thickness, area, gyrification, T1- weighted (T1w) tissue contrasts such a grey/white matter contrast, T1w/T2w ratio, magnetization transfer and myelin water fraction. Finally, we integrate imaging studies with cortical gene expression findings to further our understanding of the underlying neurobiology of the developmental changes, bridging the gap between ex vivo histological- and in vivo MRI studies. 

Progress in Neurobiology, 2021, 

Published Aug. 23, 2021 6:00 AM