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Age, sex, and puberty related development of the corpus callosum: a multi-technique diffusion MRI study


The corpus callosum is integral to the central nervous system, and continually develops with age by virtue of increasing axon diameter and ongoing myelination. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques offer a means to disentangle these two aspects of white matter development. We investigate the profile of microstructural metrics across the corpus callosum, and assess the impact of age, sex and pubertal development on these processes. This study made use of two independent paediatric populations. Multi-shell diffusion MRI data were analysed to produce a suite of diffusion tensor imaging, neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging, and apparent fibre density (AFD) metrics. A multivariate profile analysis was performed for each diffusion metric across ten subdivisions of the corpus callosum. All diffusion metrics significantly varied across the length of the corpus callosum. AFD exhibited a strong relationship with age across the corpus callosum (partial η2 = 0.65), particularly in the posterior body of the corpus callosum (partial η2 = 0.72). In addition, females had significantly higher AFD compared with males, most markedly in the anterior splenium (partial η2 = 0.14) and posterior genu (partial η2 = 0.13). Age-matched pubertal group differences were localised to the splenium. We present evidence of a strong relationship between apparent fibre density and age, sex, and puberty during development. These results are consistent with ex vivo studies of fibre morphology, providing insights into the dynamics of axonal development in childhood and adolescence using diffusion MRI.

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c Reprinted from Aboitiz et al. (1992) with permission from Elsevier



Apparent fibre density


Akaike information criterion


Body mass index


Diffusion tensor imaging


Diffusion-weighted imaging


Confidence interval


Cincinnati MR Imaging of NeuroDevelopment


Constrained spherical deconvolution


Fractional anisotropy


Fixel-based analysis


Fibre orientation distribution


General linear model


Magnetic resonance imaging


Mean diffusivity


Neuroimaging of the Children’s Attention Project


Neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging


Orientation dispersion index


Pubertal development scale




Repetition time

v ic :

Intra-cellular volume fraction


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Data used in the preparation of this article were obtained from the CMIND Data Repository (Contract #s HHSN275200900018C) and NICAP study (National Health and Medical Research Council; project Grant #1065895). This research and analysis was conducted within the Developmental Imaging research group, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program.

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Correspondence to Sila Genc or Timothy J. Silk.

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Genc, S., Malpas, C.B., Ball, G. et al. Age, sex, and puberty related development of the corpus callosum: a multi-technique diffusion MRI study. Brain Struct Funct 223, 2753–2765 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-018-1658-5

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  • Apparent fibre density
  • White matter
  • Corpus callosum
  • Puberty
  • Development
  • DTI