Apparent thinning of human visual cortex during childhood is associated with myelination

Vaidehi S. Natu, Jesse Gomez, Michael Barnett, Brianna Jeska, Evgeniya Kirilina, Carsten Jaeger, Zonglei Zhen, Siobhan Cox, Kevin S. Weiner, Nikolaus Weiskopf, Kalanit Grill-Spector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Human cortex appears to thin during childhood development. However, the underlying microstructural mechanisms are unknown. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), quantitative MRI (qMRI), and diffusion MRI (dMRI) in children and adults, we tested what quantitative changes occur to gray and white matter in ventral temporal cortex (VTC) from childhood to adulthood, and how these changes relate to cortical thinning. T1 relaxation time from qMRI and mean diffusivity (MD) from dMRI provide independent and complementary measurements of microstructural properties of gray and white matter tissue. In face- and character-selective regions in lateral VTC, T1 and MD decreased from age 5 to adulthood in mid and deep cortex, as well as in their adjacent white matter. T1 reduction also occurred longitudinally in children’s brain regions. T1 and MD decreases 1) were consistent with tissue growth related to myelination, which we verified with adult histological myelin stains, and 2) were correlated with apparent cortical thinning. In contrast, in place-selective cortex in medial VTC, we found no development of T1 or MD after age 5, and thickness was related to cortical morphology. These findings suggest that lateral VTC likely becomes more myelinated from childhood to adulthood, affecting the contrast of MR images and, in turn, the apparent gray–white boundary. These findings are important because they suggest that VTC does not thin during childhood but instead gets more myelinated. Our data have broad ramifications for understanding both typical and atypical brain development using advanced in vivo quantitative measurements and clinical conditions implicating myelin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20750-20759
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume116
Issue number41
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 8 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Keywords

  • Cortical thickness
  • Development
  • Diffusion MRI
  • Longitudinal
  • Quantitative MRI

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    Natu, V. S., Gomez, J., Barnett, M., Jeska, B., Kirilina, E., Jaeger, C., Zhen, Z., Cox, S., Weiner, K. S., Weiskopf, N., & Grill-Spector, K. (2019). Apparent thinning of human visual cortex during childhood is associated with myelination. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(41), 20750-20759. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1904931116