This study reports the dynamic anatomical sequence of human cortical gray matter development between the age of 4-21 years using quantitative four-dimensional maps and time-lapse sequences. Thirteen healthy children for whom anatomic brain MRI scans were obtained every 2 years, for 8-10 years, were studied. By using models of the cortical surface and sulcal landmarks and a statistical model for gray matter density, human cortical development could be visualized across the age range in a spatiotemporally detailed time-lapse sequence. The resulting time-lapse "movies" reveal that (i) higher-order association cortices mature only after lower-order somatosensory and visual cortices, the functions of which they integrate, are developed, and (ii) phylogenetically older brain areas mature earlier than newer ones. Direct comparison with normal cortical development may help understanding of some neurodevelopmental disorders such as childhood-onset schizophrenia or autism. Lastly, cognitive and neuroscientists called for educators to foster school cultures that better support adolescent development.
Gogtay, N., Giedd, J. N., Lusk, L., Hayashi, K. M., Greenstein, D., Vaituzis, A. C., Nugent III, T. F., Herman, D. H., Clasen, L. S., Toga, A. W., Rapoport, J. L., & Thompson, P. M. (2004). Dynamic mapping of human cortical development during childhood through early adulthood. PNAS, 101(21), 8174-8179. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0402680101