Dynamic Development of Regional Cortical Thickness and Surface Area in Early Childhood

Amanda E. Lyall, Feng Shi, Xiujuan Geng, Sandra Woolson, Gang Li, Li Wang, Robert M. Hamer, Dinggang Shen, John H. Gilmore

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114 Citations (Scopus)


Cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA) are altered in many neuropsychiatric disorders and are correlated with cognitive functioning. Little is known about how these components of cortical gray matter develop in the first years of life. We studied the longitudinal development of regional CT and SA expansion in healthy infants from birth to 2 years. CT and SA have distinct and heterogeneous patterns of development that are exceptionally dynamic; overall CT increases by an average of 36.1%, while cortical SA increases 114.6%. By age 2, CT is on average 97% of adult values, compared with SA, which is 69%. This suggests that early identification, prevention, and intervention strategies for neuropsychiatric illness need to be targeted to this period of rapid postnatal brain development, and that SA expansion is the principal driving factor in cortical volume after 2 years of age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2204-2212
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Aug 1
Externally publishedYes



  • brain development
  • cerebral cortex
  • gray matter
  • human
  • magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this

Lyall, A. E., Shi, F., Geng, X., Woolson, S., Li, G., Wang, L., Hamer, R. M., Shen, D., & Gilmore, J. H. (2015). Dynamic Development of Regional Cortical Thickness and Surface Area in Early Childhood. Cerebral Cortex, 25(8), 2204-2212. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhu027