Investigation of brain structure in the 1-month infant
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The developing brain undergoes systematic changes that occur at successive stages of maturation. Deviations from the typical neurodevelopmental trajectory are hypothesized to underlie many early childhood disorders; thus, characterizing the earliest patterns of normative brain development is essential. Recent neuroimaging research provides insight into brain structure during late childhood and adolescence; however, few studies have examined the infant brain, particularly in infants under 3 months of age. Using high-resolution structural MRI, we measured subcortical gray and white matter brain volumes in a cohort (N = 143) of 1-month infants and examined characteristics of these volumetric measures throughout this early period of neurodevelopment. We show that brain volumes undergo age-related changes during the first month of life, with the corresponding patterns of regional asymmetry and sexual dimorphism. Specifically, males have larger total brain volume and volumes differ by sex in regionally specific brain regions, after correcting for total brain volume. Consistent with findings from studies of later childhood and adolescence, subcortical regions appear more rightward asymmetric. Neither sex differences nor regional asymmetries changed with gestation-corrected age. Our results complement a growing body of work investigating the earliest neurobiological changes associated with development and suggest that asymmetry and sexual dimorphism are present at birth.
KeywordsMagnetic resonance imaging Brain volume Sexual dimorphism Brain asymmetry
We sincerely thank the children and families who participated in this research. We thank Ronald Fisher, Michael Anderle, Scott Mikkelson, Morgan Johnson, and Madeline Peters for assistance with recruitment and data collection. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Mental Health (P50 MH100031 to HHG, ALA, RJD; R01 MH101504 to HHG). DCD is supported by a Postdoctoral fellowship through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (T32 HD007489) and the National Institute of Mental Health (K99MH110596). EMP is supported by a Postdoctoral fellowship through the National Institutes of Mental Health (T32 MH018931-26). Infrastructure support was also provided by a core grant to the Waisman Center from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U54 HD090256).
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