Differential developmental trajectories of magnetic susceptibility in human brain gray and white matter over the lifespan



As indicated by several recent studies, magnetic susceptibility of the brain is influenced mainly by myelin in the white matter and by iron deposits in the deep nuclei. Myelination and iron deposition in the brain evolve both spatially and temporally. This evolution reflects an important characteristic of normal brain development and ageing. In this study, we assessed the changes of regional susceptibility in the human brain in vivo by examining the developmental and ageing process from 1 to 83 years of age. The evolution of magnetic susceptibility over this lifespan was found to display differential trajectories between the gray and the white matter. In both cortical and subcortical white matter, an initial decrease followed by a subsequent increase in magnetic susceptibility was observed, which could be fitted by a Poisson curve. In the gray matter, including the cortical gray matter and the iron-rich deep nuclei, magnetic susceptibility displayed a monotonic increase that can be described by an exponential growth. The rate of change varied according to functional and anatomical regions of the brain. For the brain nuclei, the age-related changes of susceptibility were in good agreement with the findings from R2* measurement. Our results suggest that magnetic susceptibility may provide valuable information regarding the spatial and temporal patterns of brain myelination and iron deposition during brain maturation and ageing. Hum Brain Mapp 35:2698–2713, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.