Differences of inter-tract correlations between neonates and children around puberty: A study based on microstructural measurements with DTI

Virendra Mishra, Hua Cheng, Gaolang Gong, Yong He, Qi Dong, Hao Huang

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20 Scopus citations


The human brain development is a complicated yet well-organized process. Metrics derived from diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), including fractional anisotropy (FA), radial (RD), axial (AxD), and mean diffusivity (MD), have been used to noninvasively access the microstructural development of human brain white matter (WM). At birth, most of the major WM tracts are apparent but in a relatively disorganized pattern. Brain maturation is a process of establishing an organized pattern of these major WM tracts. However, how the linkage pattern of major WM tracts changes during development remains unclear. In this study, DTI data of 26 neonates and 28 children around puberty were acquired. 10 major WM tracts, representing four major tract groups involved in distinctive brain functions, were traced with DTI tractography for all 54 subjects. With the 10 by 10 correlation matrices constructed with Spearman's pairwise inter-tract correlations and based on tract-level measurements of FA, RD, AxD, and MD of both age groups, we assessed if the inter-tract correlations become stronger from birth to puberty. In addition, hierarchical clustering was performed based on the pairwise correlations of WM tracts to reveal the clustering pattern for each age group and pattern shift from birth to puberty. Stronger and enhanced microstructural inter-tract correlations were found during development from birth to puberty. The linkage patterns of two age groups differ due to brain development. These changes of microstructural correlations from birth to puberty suggest inhomogeneous but organized myelination processes which cause the reshuffled inter-tract correlation pattern and make homologous tracts tightly clustered. It opens a new window to study WM tract development and can be potentially used to investigate atypical brain development due to neurological or psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number721
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 29 2013


  • Brain development
  • DTI
  • Homologous
  • Inter-tract correlation
  • Microstructure
  • Neonate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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