Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have created a map of the cortex’s surface in the developing human brain with remarkable detail. It showed the growth of important functional areas from two months before birth to two years later.
The new cortical development mapping, which was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a potent new method for studying brain-developmental conditions like autism and schizophrenia. It also represents an important resource for future research on brain development.
Dynamic cortical development is seen from the third trimester of pregnancy to the first two years of life. During this time, the cortex tends to thicken and rapidly increase in surface area as a result of the formation of intricate cortical folds. Schizophrenia and autism have been associated with abnormalities in this cortical thickness and expansion, according to research. However, because there isn’t a high-resolution map of this time, scientists haven’t been able to learn more about this developmental stage in the foetus to toddler age range.
An extensive collection of 1,037 high-quality MRI scans of infants from the third trimester to the age of two were gathered by researchers at the University of North Carolina Health Care for the new study. The team then utilised computer-based software to analyse the scan results.
The researchers was able to identify 18 unique sections, and they discovered that they matched up nicely with what they already knew about the functional organs of the cortex. In this developmental window, all of these regions exhibit a tremendous increase in surface area, with each region following a different trajectory, according to Gang Li, PhD, an associate professor of radiology at the UNC School of Medicine. Senior author Li is responsible for the research that was featured in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The map showed that each cortical region followed the same developmental course as its corresponding region in the opposing hemisphere. The study was also able to identify sex variations in the development. According to Li, the mapping has revealed a fresh perspective on how the brain develops.