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      Children's Brain Development Benefits from Longer Gestation


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          Disruptions to brain development associated with shortened gestation place individuals at risk for the development of behavioral and psychological dysfunction throughout the lifespan. The purpose of the present study was to determine if the benefit for brain development conferred by increased gestational length exists on a continuum across the gestational age spectrum among healthy children with a stable neonatal course. Neurodevelopment was evaluated with structural magnetic resonance imaging in 100 healthy right-handed 6- to 10-year-old children born between 28 and 41 gestational weeks with a stable neonatal course. Data indicate that a longer gestational period confers an advantage for neurodevelopment. Longer duration of gestation was associated with region-specific increases in gray matter density. Further, the benefit of longer gestation for brain development was present even when only children born full term were considered. These findings demonstrate that even modest decreases in the duration of gestation can exert profound and lasting effects on neurodevelopment for both term and preterm infants and may contribute to long-term risk for health and disease.

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            Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation.

            There is controversy over the nature of the disturbance in brain development that underpins attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In particular, it is unclear whether the disorder results from a delay in brain maturation or whether it represents a complete deviation from the template of typical development. Using computational neuroanatomic techniques, we estimated cortical thickness at >40,000 cerebral points from 824 magnetic resonance scans acquired prospectively on 223 children with ADHD and 223 typically developing controls. With this sample size, we could define the growth trajectory of each cortical point, delineating a phase of childhood increase followed by adolescent decrease in cortical thickness (a quadratic growth model). From these trajectories, the age of attaining peak cortical thickness was derived and used as an index of cortical maturation. We found maturation to progress in a similar manner regionally in both children with and without ADHD, with primary sensory areas attaining peak cortical thickness before polymodal, high-order association areas. However, there was a marked delay in ADHD in attaining peak thickness throughout most of the cerebrum: the median age by which 50% of the cortical points attained peak thickness for this group was 10.5 years (SE 0.01), which was significantly later than the median age of 7.5 years (SE 0.02) for typically developing controls (log rank test chi(1)(2) = 5,609, P < 1.0 x 10(-20)). The delay was most prominent in prefrontal regions important for control of cognitive processes including attention and motor planning. Neuroanatomic documentation of a delay in regional cortical maturation in ADHD has not been previously reported.
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              Regional differences in synaptogenesis in human cerebral cortex.

              The formation of synaptic contacts in human cerebral cortex was compared in two cortical regions: auditory cortex (Heschl's gyrus) and prefrontal cortex (middle frontal gyrus). Synapse formation in both cortical regions begins in the fetus, before conceptual age 27 weeks. Synaptic density increases more rapidly in auditory cortex, where the maximum is reached near postnatal age 3 months. Maximum synaptic density in middle frontal gyrus is not reached until after age 15 months. Synaptogenesis occurs concurrently with dendritic and axonal growth and with myelination of the subcortical white matter. A phase of net synapse elimination occurs late in childhood, earlier in auditory cortex, where it has ended by age 12 years, than in prefrontal cortex, where it extends to midadolescence. Synaptogenesis and synapse elimination in humans appear to be heterochronous in different cortical regions and, in that respect, appears to differ from the rhesus monkey, where they are concurrent. In other respects, including overproduction of synaptic contacts in infancy, persistence of high levels of synaptic density to late childhood or adolescence, the absolute values of maximum and adult synaptic density, and layer specific differences, findings in the human resemble those in rhesus monkeys.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychology
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Research Foundation
                09 February 2011
                : 2
                : 1
                [1] 1simpleWomen and Children's Health and Well-Being Project, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of California Irvine Orange, CA, USA
                [2] 2simpleDepartment of Pediatrics, University of California Irvine Orange, CA, USA
                [3] 3simpleDepartment of Radiological Sciences, University of California Irvine Irvine, CA, USA
                [4] 4simpleCenter for Functional Onco-Imaging, University of California Irvine Irvine, CA, USA
                [5] 5simpleDepartment of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of California Irvine Orange, CA, USA
                [6] 6simpleDepartment of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cedars Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles, CA, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Frederic Dick, University of California at San Diego, USA

                Reviewed by: Christine Charvet, Cornell University, USA; Natacha Akshoomoff, University of California at San Diego, USA

                *Correspondence: Elysia Poggi Davis, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of California Irvine, 333 The City Boulevard, West Suite 1200, Orange, CA 92868, USA. e-mail: edavis@ 123456uci.edu

                This article was submitted to Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, a specialty of Frontiers in Psychology.

                Copyright © 2011 Davis, Buss, Muftuler, Head, Hasso, Wing, Hobel and Sandman.

                This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

                : 28 October 2010
                : 01 January 2011
                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 55, Pages: 7, Words: 5744
                Original Research

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                fetal programming,brain development,mri,preterm,full term,gestational length


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