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A structural MRI study of human brain development from birth to 2 years.


Brain development in the first 2 years after birth is extremely dynamic and likely plays an important role in neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. Knowledge regarding this period is currently quite limited. We studied structural brain development in healthy subjects from birth to 2. Ninety-eight children received structural MRI scans on a Siemens head-only 3T scanner with magnetization prepared rapid gradient echo T1-weighted, and turbo spin echo, dual-echo (proton density and T2 weighted) sequences: 84 children at 2-4 weeks, 35 at 1 year and 26 at 2 years of age. Tissue segmentation was accomplished using a novel automated approach. Lateral ventricle, caudate, and hippocampal volumes were also determined. Total brain volume increased 101% in the first year, with a 15% increase in the second. The majority of hemispheric growth was accounted for by gray matter, which increased 149% in the first year; hemispheric white matter volume increased by only 11%. Cerebellum volume increased 240% in the first year. Lateral ventricle volume increased 280% in the first year, with a small decrease in the second. The caudate increased 19% and the hippocampus 13% from age 1 to age 2. There was robust growth of the human brain in the first two years of life, driven mainly by gray matter growth. In contrast, white matter growth was much slower. Cerebellum volume also increased substantially in the first year of life. These results suggest the structural underpinnings of cognitive and motor development in early childhood, as well as the potential pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Pubmed ID: 19020011


  • Knickmeyer RC
  • Gouttard S
  • Kang C
  • Evans D
  • Wilber K
  • Smith JK
  • Hamer RM
  • Lin W
  • Gerig G
  • Gilmore JH


The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Publication Data

November 19, 2008

Associated Grants

  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: HD03110
  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: HD053000
  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: HD40127
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: MH019111
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: MH064065
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: P50 MH064065
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: P50 MH064065-01A10002
  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: R01 HD053000
  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: R01 HD053000-01A1
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: T32 MH019111
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: T32 MH019111-09

Mesh Terms

  • Age Factors
  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pregnancy