Mapping longitudinal development of local cortical gyrification in infants from birth to 2 years of age

Li G, Wang L, Shi F, Lyall AE, Lin W, Gilmore JH, Shen D

J. Neurosci. 2014 Mar;34(12):4228-38

PMID: 24647943


Human cortical folding is believed to correlate with cognitive functions. This likely correlation may have something to do with why abnormalities of cortical folding have been found in many neurodevelopmental disorders. However, little is known about how cortical gyrification, the cortical folding process, develops in the first 2 years of life, a period of dynamic and regionally heterogeneous cortex growth. In this article, we show how we developed a novel infant-specific method for mapping longitudinal development of local cortical gyrification in infants. By using this method, via 219 longitudinal 3T magnetic resonance imaging scans from 73 healthy infants, we systemically and quantitatively characterized for the first time the longitudinal cortical global gyrification index (GI) and local GI (LGI) development in the first 2 years of life. We found that the cortical GI had age-related and marked development, with 16.1% increase in the first year and 6.6% increase in the second year. We also found marked and regionally heterogeneous cortical LGI development in the first 2 years of life, with the high-growth regions located in the association cortex, whereas the low-growth regions located in sensorimotor, auditory, and visual cortices. Meanwhile, we also showed that LGI growth in most cortical regions was positively correlated with the brain volume growth, which is particularly significant in the prefrontal cortex in the first year. In addition, we observed gender differences in both cortical GIs and LGIs in the first 2 years, with the males having larger GIs than females at 2 years of age. This study provides valuable information on normal cortical folding development in infancy and early childhood.