In response to a growing interest in refining brain connectivity assessments, this study focuses on integrating white matter fibre-specific microstructural properties into structural connectomes. Spanning ages 8-19 years in a developmental sample, it explores age-related patterns of microstructure-informed network properties at both local and global scales.

First the diffusion-weighted signal fraction associated with each tractography-reconstructed streamline was constructed. Subsequently, the Convex Optimization Modelling for Microstructure-Informed Tractography (COMMIT) approach was employed to generate microstructure-informed connectomes from diffusion MRI data. To complete the investigation, network characteristics within eight functionally defined networks (visual, somatomotor, dorsal attention, ventral attention, limbic, frontoparietal, default mode, and subcortical networks) were evaluated.

The findings underscore a consistent increase in global efficiency across child and adolescent development within the visual, somatomotor, and default mode networks (p<.005). Additionally, mean strength exhibits an upward trend in the somatomotor and visual networks (p<.001). Notably, nodes within the dorsal and ventral visual pathways manifest substantial age-dependent changes in local efficiency, aligning with existing evidence of extended maturation in these pathways. The outcomes strongly support the notion of a prolonged developmental trajectory for visual association cortices.

This study contributes valuable insights into the nuanced dynamics of microstructure-informed brain connectivity throughout different developmental stages.

There is a growing interest in incorporating biologically relevant white matter properties into the analysis of brain networks to obtain a more quantitative assessment of brain connectivity. In a developmental sample aged 8-19 years, we studied age-related patterns of local and global network properties. We generated microstructure-informed connectomes using diffusion MRI data, and computed network characteristics in eight functionally defined networks (visual, somatomotor, dorsal attention, ventral attention, limbic, frontoparietal, default mode and subcortical networks). The findings reveal that throughout child and adolescent development, global efficiency increases in the visual, somatomotor, and default mode networks, and mean strength increases in the somatomotor and visual networks. Nodes belonging to the dorsal and ventral visual pathways demonstrate the largest age dependence in local efficiency, supporting previous evidence of protracted maturation of dorsal and ventral visual pathways. The results provide compelling evidence that there is a prolonged development of visual association cortices.

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Author notes

Handling Editor: Andrew Zalesky

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authors contributed equally

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Supplementary data