Charting shared developmental trajectories of cortical thickness and structural connectivity in childhood and adolescence

Gareth Ball, Richard Beare, Marc L. Seal

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10 Citations (Scopus)


The cortex is organised into broadly hierarchical functional systems with distinct neuroanatomical characteristics reflected by macroscopic measures of cortical morphology. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging allows the delineation of areal connectivity, changes to which reflect the ongoing maturation of white matter tracts. These developmental processes are intrinsically linked with timing coincident with the development of cognitive function. In this study, we use a data-driven multivariate approach, nonnegative matrix factorisation, to define cortical regions that co-vary together across a large paediatric cohort (n = 456) and are associated with specific subnetworks of cortical connectivity. We find that age between 3 and 21 years is associated with accelerated cortical thinning in frontoparietal regions, whereas relative thinning of primary motor and sensory regions is slower. Together, the subject-specific weights of the derived set of cortical components can be combined to predict chronological age. Structural connectivity networks reveal a relative increase in strength in connection within, as opposed to between hemispheres that vary in line with cortical changes. We confirm our findings in an independent sample.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4630-4644
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • brain development
  • connectivity
  • cortex
  • diffusion MRI
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • matrix factorisation
  • multivariate

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