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White matter alterations at pubertal onset

By Sila Genc, Marc L Seal, Thijs Dhollander, Charles B Malpas, Philip Hazell, Tim Silk

Posted 19 Apr 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/128165 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.05.017)

Recent neurodevelopmental research supports the contribution of pubertal stage to local and global grey and white matter remodelling. Little is known, however, about white matter microstructural alterations at pubertal onset. This study investigated differences in white matter properties between pre-pubertal and pubertal children using whole brain fixel-based analysis (FBA) of the microscopic density and macroscopic cross-section of fibre bundles. Diffusion-weighted imaging data were acquired for 74 typically developing children (M=10.4, SD=0.43 years, 31 female) at 3.0T (60 diffusion gradient directions, b-value=2800 s/mm2). Group comparisons of fibre density (FD) and fibre cross-section (FC) were made between age-matched pre-pubertal and pubertal groups, and post-hoc analyses were performed on regions of interest (ROIs) defined in the splenium, body and genu of the corpus callosum. Significant fixel-wise differences in FD were observed between the pubertal groups, where the pubertal group had significantly higher FD compared with age-matched pre-pubertal children, localised to the posterior corpus callosum. Post-hoc analyses on mean FD in the corpus callosum ROIs revealed group differences between the pubertal groups in the splenium, but not body or genu. The observed higher apparent fibre density in the splenium suggests that pubertal onset coincides with white matter differences explained by increasing axon diameter. This may be an important effect to account for over pubertal development, particularly for group studies where age-matched clinical and typical populations may be at various stages of puberty.

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