Measuring the dynamic longitudinal cortex development in infants by reconstruction of temporally consistent cortical surfaces

Gang Li, Jingxin Nie, Li Wang, Feng Shi, John H. Gilmore, Weili Lin, Dinggang Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Citations (Scopus)


Quantitative measurement of the dynamic longitudinal cortex development during early postnatal stages is of great importance to understand the early cortical structural and functional development. Conventional methods usually reconstruct the cortical surfaces of longitudinal images from the same subject independently, which often generate longitudinally-inconsistent cortical surfaces and thus lead to inaccurate measurement of cortical changes, especially for vertex-wise mapping of cortical development. This paper aims to address this problem by presenting a method to reconstruct temporally-consistent cortical surfaces from longitudinal infant brain MR images, for accurate and consistent measurement of the dynamic cortex development in infants. Specifically, the longitudinal development of the inner cortical surface is first modeled by a deformable growth sheet with elasto-plasticity property to establish longitudinally smooth correspondences of the inner cortical surfaces. Then, the modeled longitudinal inner cortical surfaces are jointly deformed to locate both inner and outer cortical surfaces with a spatial-temporal deformable surface method. The method has been applied to 13 healthy infants, each with 6 serial MR scans acquired at 2. weeks, 3. months, 6. months, 9. months, 12. months and 18. months of age. Experimental results showed that our method with the incorporated longitudinal constraints can reconstruct the longitudinally-dynamic cortical surfaces from serial infant MR images more consistently and accurately than the previously published methods. By using our method, for the first time, we can characterize the vertex-wise longitudinal cortical thickness development trajectory at multiple time points in the first 18. months of life. Specifically, we found the highly age-related and regionally-heterogeneous developmental trajectories of the cortical thickness during this period, with the cortical thickness increased most from 3 to 6. months (16.2%) and least from 9 to 12. months (less than 0.1%). Specifically, the central sulcus only underwent significant increase of cortical thickness from 6 to 9. months and the occipital cortex underwent significant increase from 0 to 9. months, while the frontal, temporal and parietal cortices grew continuously in this first 18. months of life. The adult-like spatial patterns of cortical thickness were generally present at 18. months of age. These results provided detailed insights into the dynamic trajectory of the cortical thickness development in infants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-279
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for providing constructive and detailed suggestions that improved this paper significantly. This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health grants AG041721 , AG042599 , MH100217 , EB006733 , EB008374 , EB009634 , EB008760 , MH088520 , MH070890 , MH064065 , NS055754 , and HD053000 . This work was also partially supported by the National Research Foundation grant (No. 2012-005741 ) funded by the Korean government.


  • Cortical folding
  • Cortical surface reconstruction
  • Cortical thickness
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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