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A moment of change: shifts in myeloarchitecture characterise adolescent development of cortical gradients

By C Paquola, RAI Bethlehem, Jakob Seidlitz, K Wagstyl, R. Romero-Garcia, KJ Whitaker, R Vos De Wael, GB Williams, NSPN Consortium, PE VĂ©rtes, DS Margulies, BC Bernhardt, Ed Bullmore

Posted 23 Jul 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/706341

The biological processes underpinning adolescent brain maturation remain elusive. Expanding on previous work showing age-related changes in cortical morphology, we studied an accelerated longitudinal cohort of adolescents and young adults (n=223, two time points) to investigate dynamic reconfigurations in myeloarchitecture. Intracortical profiles were generated using magnetization transfer (MT) data, a myelin-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging contrast. Mixed-effect models of depth specific intracortical profiles demonstrated two separate processes i) related to overall increases in MT, and ii) showing a flattening of the MT profile related to enhanced signal in mid-to-deeper layers, especially in heteromodal and unimodal association cortices. This development was independent of morphological changes, and enhanced MT in mid-to-deeper layers was found to spatially co-localise specifically with gene expression markers of oligodendrocytes. Covariance analysis between all pairs of intracortical profiles revealed that these intracortical changes contributed to a gradual and dynamic differentiation from higher-order to lower-order systems. Depth-dependent trajectories of intracortical myeloarchitectural development contribute to the maturation of structural hierarchies in the human neocortex, providing a model for adolescent development that bridges microstructural and macroscopic scales of brain organization. eLife digest Intracortical myelin imposes a spatial structure on cortico-cortical connections, yet little is known about how myeloarchitecture develops throughout youth. We formulated a novel approach to study cortical myeloarchitecture in individual humans and leveraged an accelerated longitudinal design to track age-related changes from 14-27 years. We discovered two unique processes: one involving increasing mean myelin and another characterised by the preferential accumulation of myelin in mid-to-deeper cortical layers. Both processes contributed to an increasing segregation of lower-order from higher-order systems along the macroscale cortical hierarchy. These findings illustrate how layer specific microstructural changes contribute to the maturation of cortical organization and suggest adolescent fine tuning of hierarchical gradients of cortical networks.

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