The development of structural covariance networks during the transition from childhood to adolescence
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2021, 00:00 authored by Nandi VijayakumarNandi Vijayakumar, G Ball, M L Seal, L Mundy, S Whittle, Tim SilkTim Silk
Structural covariance conceptualizes how morphologic properties of brain regions are related to one another (across individuals). It can provide unique information to cortical structure (e.g., thickness) about the development of functionally meaningful networks. The current study investigated how structural covariance networks develop during the transition from childhood to adolescence, a period characterized by marked structural re-organization. Participants (N = 192; scans = 366) completed MRI assessments between 8.5 and 14.5 years of age. A sliding window approach was used to create “age-bins”, and structural covariance networks (based on cortical thickness) were created for each bin. Next, generalized additive models were used to characterize trajectories of age-related changes in network properties. Results revealed nonlinear trajectories with “peaks” in mean correlation and global density that are suggestive of a period of convergence in anatomical properties across the cortex during early adolescence, prior to regional specialization. “Hub” regions in sensorimotor cortices were present by late childhood, but the extent and strength of association cortices as “hubs” increased into mid-adolescence. Moreover, these regional changes were found to be related to rates of thinning across the cortex. In the context of neurocognitive networks, the frontoparietal, default mode, and attention systems exhibited age-related increases in within-network and between-network covariance. These regional and modular developmental patterns are consistent with continued refinement of socioemotional and other complex executive functions that are supported by higher-order cognitive networks during early adolescence.