First-year development of modules and hubs in infant brain functional networks

Xuyun Wen, Han Zhang, Gang Li, Mingxia Liu, Weiyan Yin, Weili Lin, Jun Zhang, Dinggang Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


The human brain develops rapidly in the first postnatal year, in which rewired functional brain networks could shape later behavioral and cognitive performance. Resting-state functional magnetic resonances imaging (rs-fMRI) and complex network analysis have been widely used for characterizing the developmental brain functional connectome. Yet, such studies focusing on the first year of postnatal life are still very limited. Leveraging normally developing longitudinal infant rs-fMRI scans from neonate to one year of age, we investigated how brain functional networks develop at a fine temporal scale (every 3 months). Considering challenges in the infant fMRI-based network analysis, we developed a novel algorithm to construct the robust, temporally consistent and modular structure augmented group-level network based on which functional modules were detected at each age. Our study reveals that the brain functional network is gradually subdivided into an increasing number of functional modules accompanied by the strengthened intra- and inter-modular connectivities. Based on the developing modules, we found connector hubs (the high-centrality regions connecting different modules) emerging and increasing, while provincial hubs (the high-centrality regions connecting regions in the same module) diminishing. Further region-wise longitudinal analysis validates that different hubs have distinct developmental trajectories of the intra- and inter-modular connections suggesting different types of role transitions in network, such as non-hubs to hubs or provincial hubs to connector hubs et al. All findings indicate that functional segregation and integration are both increased in the first year of postnatal life. The module reorganization and hub transition lead to more efficient brain networks, featuring increasingly segregated modular structure and more connector hubs. This study provides the first comprehensive report of the development of functional brain networks at a 3-month interval throughout the first postnatal year of life, which provides essential information to the future neurodevelopmental and developmental disorder studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-235
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 15


  • Brain development
  • Functional brain network
  • Hub
  • Infant
  • Module

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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