BACKGROUND: Early brain development is closely dictated by distinct neurobiological principles. Here, we aimed to map early trajectories of structural brain wiring in the neonatal brain.
METHODS: We investigated structural connectome development in 44 newborns, including 23 preterm infants and 21 full-term neonates scanned between 29 and 45 postmenstrual weeks. Diffusion-weighted imaging data were combined with cortical segmentations derived from T2 data to construct neonatal connectome maps.
RESULTS: Projection fibers interconnecting primary cortices and deep gray matter structures were noted to mature faster than connections between higher-order association cortices (fractional anisotropy (FA) F = 58.9, p < 0.001, radial diffusivity (RD) F = 28.8, p < 0.001). Neonatal FA-values resembled adult FA-values more than RD, while RD approximated the adult brain faster (F = 358.4, p < 0.001). Maturational trajectories of RD in neonatal white matter pathways revealed substantial overlap with what is known about the sequence of subcortical white matter myelination from histopathological mappings as recorded by early neuroanatomists (mean RD 68 regions r = 0.45, p = 0.008).
CONCLUSION: Employing postnatal neuroimaging we reveal that early maturational trajectories of white matter pathways display discriminative developmental features of the neonatal brain network. These findings provide valuable insight into the early stages of structural connectome development.
- Child, Preschool
- Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Diffusion Tensor Imaging
- Gray Matter/diagnostic imaging
- Infant, Newborn
- Infant, Premature
- Myelin Sheath/metabolism
- White Matter/diagnostic imaging
- Young Adult