JOURNAL ARTICLE

Asynchrony of the early maturation of white matter bundles in healthy infants: quantitative landmarks revealed noninvasively by diffusion tensor imaging

Jessica Dubois, Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz, Muriel Perrin, Jean-François Mangin, Yann Cointepas, Edouard Duchesnay, Denis Le Bihan, Lucie Hertz-Pannier
Human Brain Mapping 2008, 29 (1): 14-27
17318834
Normal cognitive development in infants follows a well-known temporal sequence, which is assumed to be correlated with the structural maturation of underlying functional networks. Postmortem studies and, more recently, structural MR imaging studies have described qualitatively the heterogeneous spatiotemporal progression of white matter myelination. However, in vivo quantification of the maturation phases of fiber bundles is still lacking. We used noninvasive diffusion tensor MR imaging and tractography in twenty-three 1-4-month-old healthy infants to quantify the early maturation of the main cerebral fascicles. A specific maturation model, based on the respective roles of different maturational processes on the diffusion phenomena, was designed to highlight asynchronous maturation across bundles by evaluating the time-course of mean diffusivity and anisotropy changes over the considered developmental period. Using an original approach, a progression of maturation in four relative stages was determined in each tract by estimating the maturation state and speed, from the diffusion indices over the infants group compared with an adults group on one hand, and in each tract compared with the average over bundles on the other hand. Results were coherent with, and extended previous findings in 8 of 11 bundles, showing the anterior limb of the internal capsule and cingulum as the most immature, followed by the optic radiations, arcuate and inferior longitudinal fascicles, then the spinothalamic tract and fornix, and finally the corticospinal tract as the most mature bundle. Thus, this approach provides new quantitative landmarks for further noninvasive research on brain-behavior relationships during normal and abnormal development.

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