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Little is known about the emergence of structural asymmetry of white matter tracts during early brain development. We examined whether and when asymmetry in diffusion parameters of limbic and association white matter pathways emerged in humans in 23 brains ranging from 15 gestational weeks (GW) up to 3 years of age (11 ex vivo and 12 in vivo cases) using high-angular resolution diffusion imaging tractography. Age-related development of laterality was not observed in a limbic connectional pathway (cingulum bundle or fornix). Among the studied cortico-cortical association pathways (inferior longitudinal fasciculus [ILF], inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and arcuate fasciculus), only the ILF showed development of age-related laterality emerging as early as the second trimester. Comparisons of ages older and younger than 40 GW revealed a leftward asymmetry in the cingulum bundle volume and a rightward asymmetry in apparent diffusion coefficient and leftward asymmetry in fractional anisotropy in the ILF in ages older than 40 GW. These results suggest that morphometric asymmetry in cortical areas precedes the emergence of white matter pathway asymmetry. Future correlative studies will investigate whether such asymmetry is anatomically/genetically driven or associated with functional stimulation.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/cercor/bhu084

Type

Journal article

Journal

Cereb Cortex

Publication Date

09/2015

Volume

25

Pages

2883 - 2893

Keywords

asymmetry, brain, development, diffusion imaging, human, tractography, white matter, Age Factors, Brain, Child, Preschool, Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Female, Fetus, Functional Laterality, Gestational Age, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Male, White Matter