Mapping Infant Brain Myelination with Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Deoni, Sean C. L; Mercure, Evelyne; Blasi, Anna; Gasston, David; Thomson, Alex; Johnson, Mark; Williams, Steven C. R. and Murphy, Declan G. M. 2011. Mapping Infant Brain Myelination with Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(2), pp. 784-791. ISSN 0270-6474 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

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.

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Copyright © 2011 the authors
Material published in JNeurosci from 2010 to 2014 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-NC-SA).

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12 January 2011Published
30 October 2010Accepted

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07 Dec 2022 13:34

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07 Dec 2022 13:37

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