Diffusion tensor imaging assessment of brain white matter maturation during the first postnatal year.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to use diffusion-weighted and diffusion tensor imaging to investigate the status of cerebral white matter (WM) at term gestation and the rate of WM maturation throughout the first year of life in healthy infants. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Fifty-three children (35 boys) ranging in age from 1.5 weeks premature to 51.5 weeks (mean age, 22.9 weeks) underwent conventional MRI, diffusion imaging in three directions (b = 1,000 s/mm2), and diffusion tensor imaging with gradient encoding in six directions, all on a 1.5-T MRI system. Apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and fractional anisotropy (FA) were measured in three deep WM structures (posterior limb of internal capsule, genu, and splenium of corpus callosum) and two peripheral WM regions (associational WM underlying prefrontal and posterior parietal cortex) with a standard region of interest (44 +/- 4 cm2). ADC and FA were expressed as a percentage of corresponding values measured in a group of healthy young adults. Mean ADC and FA values for deep and peripheral WM were plotted against gestational age normalized to term. The data were fit best with a broken-line linear regression model with a breakpoint at 100 days. ADC and FA values at term were estimated according to the intercept of the initial linear period (before day 100) with day 0. The slope of the linear fits was used to determine the rate of WM maturation in both the early and the late (after day 100) periods. Multivariate analysis of variance tests were used to compare deep and peripheral WM structures at term and at representative early and late ages (days 30 and 200) and to compare rates of ADC and FA maturation in early and late periods within the first year. RESULTS: At term, peripheral WM was less mature than deep WM according to results of extrapolation of ADC and FA values in the first 100 days of life to day 0 (p < 0.01). Mean ADC and FA value (percentage of mean adult value) for peripheral WM were 1.32 x 10(-3) mm2/s (163%) and 0.16 (32%), respectively, and 1.09 x 10(-3) mm2/s (143%) and 0.36 (54%), respectively, for deep WM. On day 30 and day 200, estimated mean ADC and FA continued to show greater diffusion (higher ADC) and less anisotropy (lower FA value) in peripheral WM (p <0.01). During the first year of postnatal life, both ADC and FA matured at higher rates before postnatal day 100 compared with a later time. Differences were observed in rates of maturation in the first 100 days when rates of decrease in ADC and increase in FA were compared between peripheral WM and deep WM; however, the maturational trends differed whether ADC or FA was examined. The early rate of ADC decrease (maturation) was twice as great for peripheral WM than for deep WM (p < 0.01) unexpectedly, but the opposite pattern was observed for FA. The early rate of FA increase (maturation) was approximately one half as great for peripheral WM as for deep WM (p = 0.01). Throughout the rest of the first year, no differences were observed in the rates of change in either index between peripheral WM and deep WM. CONCLUSION: At term, both ADC and FA differ significantly in peripheral WM and deep WM, deep WM structures being more mature. Both deep WM and peripheral WM mature more rapidly during approximately the first 3 months in comparison with the rest of the first year. Unexpected differences in early (first 100 days) rates of maturation assessed with diffusion-weighted (ADC) and diffusion tensor (FA) imaging suggest that these two techniques may be sensitive to different aspects of WM maturation in the early perinatal period.
Provenzale, JM; Liang, L; DeLong, D; White, LE
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