Developmental topography of cortical thickness during infancy

Fan Wang, Chunfeng Lian, Zhengwang Wu, Han Zhang, Tengfei Li, Yu Meng, Li Wang, Weili Lin, Dinggang Shen, Gang Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


During the first 2 postnatal years, cortical thickness of the human brain develops dynamically and spatially heterogeneously and likely peaks between 1 and 2 y of age. The striking development renders this period critical for later cognitive outcomes and vulnerable to early neurodevelopmental disorders. However, due to the difficulties in longitudinal infant brain MRI acquisition and processing, our knowledge still remains limited on the dynamic changes, peak age, and spatial heterogeneities of cortical thickness during infancy. To fill this knowledge gap, in this study, we discover the developmental regionalization of cortical thickness, i.e., developmentally distinct regions, each of which is composed of a set of codeveloping cortical vertices, for better understanding of the spatiotemporal heterogeneities of cortical thickness development. We leverage an infant-dedicated computational pipeline, an advanced multivariate analysis method (i.e., nonnegative matrix factorization), and a densely sampled longitudinal dataset with 210 serial MRI scans from 43 healthy infants, with each infant being scheduled to have 7 longitudinal scans at around 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 mo of age. Our results suggest that, during the first 2 y, the whole-brain average cortical thickness increases rapidly and reaches a plateau at about 14 mo of age and then decreases at a slow pace thereafter. More importantly, each discovered region is structurally and functionally meaningful and exhibits a distinctive developmental pattern, with several regions peaking at varied ages while others keep increasing in the first 2 postnatal years. Our findings provide valuable references and insights for early brain development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15855-15860
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 6


  • Cortical thickness
  • Developmental regionalization
  • Infant brain
  • Longitudinal development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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