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Keywords:

  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
  • adolescence;
  • gray matter;
  • white matter

Abstract: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides accurate anatomical brain images without the use of ionizing radiation, allowing longitudinal studies of brain morphometry during adolescent development. Results from an ongoing brain imaging project being conducted at the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health indicate dynamic changes in brain anatomy throughout adolescence. White matter increases in a roughly linear pattern, with minor differences in slope in the four major lobes (frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital). Cortical gray matter follows an inverted U-shape developmental course with greater regional variation than white matter. For instance, frontal gray matter volume peaks at about age 11.0 years in girls and 12.1 years in boys, whereas temporal gray matter volume peaks at about age at 16.7 years in girls and 16.2 years in boys. The dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, important for controlling impulses, is among the latest brain regions to mature without reaching adult dimensions until the early 20s. The details of the relationships between anatomical changes and behavioral changes, and the forces that influence brain development, have not been well established and remain a prominent goal of ongoing investigations.