, Volume 59, Issue 7, pp 715–724 | Cite as

Age-related changes of white matter association tracts in normal children throughout adulthood: a diffusion tensor tractography study

  • Shaimaa Abdelsattar Mohammad
  • Neveen Hassan Nashaat
Paediatric Neuroradiology



The aim of this study is to study the age, gender and lateral asymmetry-related white matter changes of long association tracts throughout late childhood and adolescence into adulthood using diffusion tensor tractography (DTT).


DTT was performed in 44 healthy subjects aged 7–45 years. Fractional anisotropy (FA), radial diffusivity (RD), axial diffusivity (AD), Trace, density and volume were calculated for long association tracts, namely the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF), inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), uncinate fasciculus, superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) and its arcuate fibres. FA and diffusivity indices were correlated as function of age using Pearson correlation test. Comparison between males and females, and comparison between both hemispheres among all participants were also performed. A p value less than .01 was considered significant.


The majority of the examined tracts (SLF and IFOF of both hemispheres, and the arcuate fasciculus, uncinate fasciculus, and ILF of the left hemisphere) followed a common pattern of metric changes with age. This pattern was characterized by significant FA increase accompanied by reduction in RD, Trace without significant AD changes. The right arcuate fasciculus showed similar pattern but without significant FA changes. The right uncinate and right ILF fasciculus demonstrated significant reduction in RD, Trace and AD, with and without significant FA increase, respectively. Left hemispheric dominance regarding the FA and diffusivity indices was demonstrated in uncinate fasciculus with no significant gender-related differences.


Significant microstructural tract-specific maturation processes continue throughout late childhood into adulthood. These processes may represent stages in a cascade of age-related maturation in white matter microstructure.


Axial diffusivity Radial diffusivity Maturation patterns Diffusion tensor imaging Fractional anisotropy 



The authors would like to thank Prof. Dr. Moustafa El Houssinie, Professor of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Ain-Shams University, for the helpful discussions on statistical issues related to this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards


No funding was received for this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. 1.
    Lebel C, Gee M, Camicioli R et al (2012) Diffusion tensor imaging of white matter tract evolution over the lifespan. NeuroImage 60:340–352CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jellison BJ, Field AS, Medow J et al (2004) Diffusion tensor imaging of cerebral white matter: a pictorial review of physics, fiber tract anatomy, and tumor imaging patterns. Am J Neuroradiol 25:356–369PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Casey BJ, Tottenham N, Liston C et al (2005) Imaging the developing brain: what have we learned about cognitive development? Trends Cogn Sci 9:104–110CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Grossman AW, Churchill JD, McKinney BC et al (2003) Experience effects on brain development: possible contributions to psychopathology. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 44:33–63CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Wolff JJ, Gu H, Gerig G et al (2012) Differences in white matter fiber tract development present from 6 to 24 months in infants with autism. Am J Psychiatry 169:589–600CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Meng JZ, Guo LW, Cheng H et al (2012) Correlation between cognitive function and the association fibers in patients with Alzheimer’s disease using diffusion tensor imaging. J Clin Neurosci 19(12):1659–1663CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Giorgio A, Watkins KE, Douaud G et al (2008) Changes in white matter microstructure during adolescence. NeuroImage 39:52–61CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Qiu D, Tan LH, Zhou K et al (2008) Diffusion tensor imaging of normal white matter maturation from late childhood to young adulthood: voxel-wise evaluation of mean diffusivity, fractional anisotropy, radial and axial diffusivities, and correlation with reading development. NeuroImage 41:223–232CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Snook L, Plewes C, Beaulieu C (2007) Voxel based versus region of interest analysis in diffusion tensor imaging of neurodevelopment. NeuroImage 34:243–252CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Muzik O, Chugani DC, Juhasz C et al (2000) Statistical parametric mapping: assessment of application in children. NeuroImage 12:538–549CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Jones DK, Symms MR, Cercignani M et al (2005) The effect of filter size on VBM analyses of DT-MRI data. NeuroImage 26:546–554CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Mori S, Kaufmann WE, Davatzikos C et al (2002) Imaging cortical association tracts in the human brain using diffusion-tensor-based axonal tracking. Magn Reson Med 47:215–223CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Catani M, Howard RJ, Pajevic S et al (2002) Virtual in vivo interactive dissection of white matter fasciculi in the human brain. NeuroImage 17:77–94CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Wakana S, Caprihan A, Panzenboeck MM et al (2007) Reproducibility of quantitative tractography methods applied to cerebral white matter. NeuroImage 36:630–644CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Berman JI, Mukherjee P, Partridge SC et al (2005) Quantitative diffusion tensor MRI fiber tractography of sensorimotor white matter development in premature infants. NeuroImage 27:862–871CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Dubois J, Hertz-Pannier L, Dehaene-Lambertz G et al (2006) Assessment of the early organization and maturation of infants’ cerebral white matter fiber bundles: a feasibility study using quantitative diffusion tensor imaging and tractography. NeuroImage 30:1121–1132CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Zacharia A, Zimine S, Lovblad KO (2006) Early assessment of brain maturation by MR imaging segmentation in neonates and premature infants. Am J Neuroradiol 27:972–977PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Giménez M, Miranda MJ, Born AP et al (2008) Accelerated cerebral white matter development in preterm infants: a voxel-based morphometry study with diffusion tensor MR imaging. NeuroImage 41:728–734CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Moon WJ, Provenzale JM, Sarikaya B et al (2011) Diffusion-tensor imaging assessment of white matter maturation in childhood and adolescence. Am J Roentgenol 197:704–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Schmithorst VJ, Wilke M, Dardzinski BJ et al (2002) Correlation of white matter diffusivity and anisotropy with age during childhood and adolescence: a cross-sectional diffusion-tensor MR imaging study. Radiology 222:212–218CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Barnea-Goraly N, Menon V, Eckert M et al (2005) White matter development during childhood and adolescence: a cross-sectional diffusion tensor imaging study. Cereb Cortex 15:1848–1854CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Eluvathingal TJ, Hasan KM, Kramer L et al (2007) Quantitative diffusion tensor tractography of association and projection fibers in normally developing children and adolescents. Cereb Cortex 17:2760–2768CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Snook L, Paulson LA, Roy D et al (2005) Diffusion tensor imaging of neurodevelopment in children and young adults. NeuroImage 26:1164–1173CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lebel C, Walker L, Leemans A et al (2008) Microstructural maturation of the human brain from childhood to adulthood. NeuroImage 40:1044–1055CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Asato MR, Terwilliger R, Woo J et al (2010) White matter development in adolescence: a DTI study. Cereb Cortex 20:2122–2131CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lebel C, Beaulieu C (2011) Longitudinal development of human brain wiring continues from childhood into adulthood. J Neurosci 31:10937–10947CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kumar R, Nguyen HD, Macey PM et al (2012) Regional brain axial and radial diffusivity changes during development. J Neurosci Res 90:346–355CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Hasan KM, Kamali A, Abid H et al (2010) Quantification of the spatiotemporal microstructural organization of the human brain association, projection and commissural pathways across the lifespan using diffusion tensor tractography. Brain Struct Funct 214:361–373CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Jiang DTIH, van Zijl PC, Kim J et al (2006) DtiStudio: resource program for diffusion tensor computation and fiber bundle tracking. Comput Methods Prog Biomed 81:106–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Song SK, Sun SW, Ramsbottom MJ et al (2002) Dysmyelination revealed through MRI as increased radial (but unchanged axial) diffusion of water. NeuroImage 17:1429–1436CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Sun SW, Liang HF, Le TQ (2006) Differential sensitivity of in vivo and ex vivo diffusion tensor imaging to evolving optic nerve injury in mice with retinal ischemia. NeuroImage 32:1195–1204CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Luna B, Garver KE, Urban TA et al (2004) Maturation of cognitive processes from late childhood to adulthood. Child Dev 75:1357–1372CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Suzuki Y, Matsuzawa H, Kwee IL et al (2003) Absolute eigenvalue diffusion tensor analysis for human brain maturation. NMR Biomed 16:257–260CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Dubois J, Dehaene-Lambertz G, Perrin M et al (2008) Asynchrony of the early maturation of white matter bundles in healthy infants: quantitative landmarks revealed noninvasively by diffusion tensor imaging. Hum Brain Mapp 29:14–27CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Dubois J, Dehaene-Lambertz G, Kulikova S et al (2014) The early development of brain white matter: a review of imaging studies in fetuses, newborns and infants. Neuroscience 276:48–71CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Qiu A, Sz M, Miller MI (2015) Diffusion tensor imaging for understanding brain development in early life. Annu Rev Psychol 66:853–876CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Mori S, Zhang J (2006) Principles of diffusion tensor imaging and its applications to basic neuroscience research. Neuron 51:527–539CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Bennett IJ, Madden DJ, Vaidya CJ et al (2010) Age-related differences in multiple measures of white matter integrity: a diffusion tensor imaging study of healthy aging. Hum Brain Mapp 31:378–390PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Burzynska AZ, Preuschhof C, Backman L et al (2010) Age-related differences in white matter microstructure: region specific patterns of diffusivity. NeuroImage 49:2104–2112CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Moll J, Zahn R, de Oliveira-Souza R et al (2005) Opinion: the neural basis of human moral cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci 6:799–809CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Blakemore SJ, Choudhury S (2006) Development of the adolescent brain: implications for executive function and social cognition. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 47:296–312CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Schmithorst VJ, Wilke M, Dardzinski BJ et al (2005) Cognitive functions correlate with white matter architecture in a normal pediatric population: a diffusion tensor MR imaging study. Hum Brain Mapp 26:139–147CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Salami M, Itami C, Tsumoto T, Kimura F (2003) Change of conduction velocity by regional myelination yields constant latency irrespective of distance between thalamus and cortex. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 100:6174–6179CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Scholz J, Klein MC, Behrens TE, Johansen-Berg H (2009) Training induces changes in white-matter architecture. Nat Neurosci 12:1370–1371CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Wahl M, Li YO, Ng J et al (2010) Microstructural correlations of white matter tracts in the human brain. NeuroImage 51:534–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Wu Y, Sun D, Wang Y et al (2016) Subcomponents and connectivity of the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus revealed by diffusion spectrum imaging fiber tracking. Front Neuroanat 10:88PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Dick AS, Tremblay P (2012) Beyond the arcuate fasciculus: consensus and controversy in the connectional anatomy of language. Brain 135:3529–3550CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Geier C, Luna B (2009) The maturation of incentive processing and cognitive control. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 93:212–221CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Zhang J, Evans A, Hermoye L et al (2007) Evidence of slow maturation of the superior longitudinal fasciculus in early childhood by diffusion tensor imaging. NeuroImage 38:239–247CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Urger SE, De Bellis MD, Hooper S et al (2015) The superior longitudinal fasciculus in typically developing children and adolescents: diffusion tensor imaging and neuropsychological correlates. J Child Neurol 30:9–20CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Park HJ, Westin CF, Kubicki M et al (2004) White matter hemisphere asymmetries in healthy subjects and in schizophrenia: a diffusion tensor MRI study. NeuroImage 23:213–223CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Rodrigo S, Oppenheim C, Chassoux F, Golestani N, Cointepas Y, Poupon C et al (2007) Uncinate fasciculus fiber tracking in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy: initial findings. Eur Radiol 17:1663–1668CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Hasan KM, Iftikhar A, Kamali A et al (2009) Development and aging of the healthy human brain uncinate fasciculus across the lifespan using diffusion tensor tractography. Brain Res 18(1276):67–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Powell HW, Parker GJ, Alexander DC et al (2006) Hemispheric asymmetries in language-related pathways: a combined functional MRI and tractography study. NeuroImage 32:388–399CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Agosta F, Henry RG, Migliaccio R et al (2010) Language networks in semantic dementia. Brain 133:286–299CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Lo YC, Soong WT, Gau SSF et al (2011) The loss of asymmetry and reduced interhemispheric connectivity in adolescents with autism: a study using diffusion spectrum imaging tractography. Psychiatric Res 192:60–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Allen JS, Damasio H, Grabowski TJ et al (2003) Sexual dimorphism and asymmetries in the gray-white composition of the human cerebrum. NeuroImage 18:880–894CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Shin YW, Kim DJ, Hyon T et al (2005) Sex differences in the human corpus callosum: diffusion tensor imaging study. Neuroreport 16:795–798CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shaimaa Abdelsattar Mohammad
    • 1
  • Neveen Hassan Nashaat
    • 2
  1. 1.Radiodiagnosis department, Faculty of medicineAin-Shams UniversityCairoEgypt
  2. 2.National Research CentreCairoEgypt

Personalised recommendations