Diffusion tensor imaging: Application to the study of the developing brain

Carissa J Cascio, Guido Gerig, Joseph Piven
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2007, 46 (2): 213-23

OBJECTIVE: To provide an overview of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and its application to the study of white matter in the developing brain in both healthy and clinical samples.

METHOD: The development of DTI and its application to brain imaging of white matter tracts is discussed. Forty-eight studies using DTI to examine diffusion properties of the developing brain are reviewed in the context of the structural magnetic resonance imaging literature. Reports of how brain diffusion properties are affected in pediatric clinical samples and how they relate to cognitive and behavioral phenotypes are reviewed.

RESULTS: DTI has been used successfully to describe white matter development in pediatric samples. Changes in white matter diffusion properties are consistent across studies, with anisotropy increasing and overall diffusion decreasing with age. Diffusion measures in relevant white matter regions correlate with behavioral measures in healthy children and in clinical pediatric samples.

CONCLUSIONS: DTI is an important tool for providing a more detailed picture of developing white matter than can be obtained with conventional magnetic resonance imaging alone.

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