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Mapping infant brain myelination with magnetic resonance imaging

Deoni, S.C.L. and Mercure, Evelyne and Blasi, Anna and Gasston, D. and Thomson, A. and Johnson, Mark H. and Williams, S.C.R. and Murphy, D.G.M. (2011) Mapping infant brain myelination with magnetic resonance imaging. Journal of Neuroscience 31 (2), pp. 784-791. ISSN 0270-6474.

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Myelination, the elaboration of myelin surrounding neuronal axons, is essential for normal brain function. The development of the myelin sheath enables rapid synchronized communication across the neural systems responsible for higher order cognitive functioning. Despite this critical role, quantitative visualization of myelination in vivo is not possible with current neuroimaging techniques including diffusion tensor and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Although these techniques offer insight into structural maturation, they reflect several different facets of development, e. g., changes in axonal size, density, coherence, and membrane structure; lipid, protein, and macromolecule content; and water compartmentalization. Consequently, observed signal changes are ambiguous, hindering meaningful inferences between imaging findings and metrics of learning, behavior or cognition. Here we present the first quantitative study of myelination in healthy human infants, from 3 to 11 months of age. Using a new myelin-specific MRI technique, we report a spatiotemporal pattern beginning in the cerebellum, pons, and internal capsule; proceeding caudocranially from the splenium of the corpus callosum and optic radiations (at 3-4 months); to the occipital and parietal lobes (at 4-6 months); and then to the genu of the corpus callosum and frontal and temporal lobes (at 6-8 months). Our results also offer preliminary evidence of hemispheric myelination rate differences. This work represents a significant step forward in our ability to appreciate the fundamental process of myelination, and provides the first ever in vivo visualization of myelin maturation in healthy human infancy.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Science > Psychological Sciences
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2011 14:23
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:20

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