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In vivo evidence for post-adolescent brain maturation in frontal and striatal regions


We spatially and temporally mapped brain maturation between adolescence and young adulthood using a whole-brain, voxel-by-voxel statistical analysis of high-resolution structural magnetic resonance images (MRI). The pattern of brain maturation during these years was distinct from earlier development, and was localized to large regions of dorsal, medial and orbital frontal cortex and lenticular nuclei, with relatively little change in any other location. This spatial and temporal pattern agrees with convergent findings from post-mortem studies of brain development and the continued development over this age range of cognitive functions attributed to frontal structures.

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Figure 1: Adolescent minus adult statistical parametric mapping.
Figure 2: Voxels showing significant changes in gray matter between adolescents and adults, mapped onto an averaged brain.


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We thank the McConnell Brain Imaging Center at the Montreal Neurological Institute and the SPM software developers at the Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology. Finally, we thank David Kornsand for assistance in anatomical analyses and John Bacheller for artwork. This study was supported by grants P50 NS22343, and R01 HD 23854, and NIMH NRSA grant 5T32 MH16381, NSF DBI 9601356, the NCRR (P41 RR13642), NINDS (NS38753) and the pediatric supplement of the Human Brain Project, funded jointly by NIMH and NIDA (P20 MH/DA52176).

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Correspondence to Elizabeth R. Sowell.

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Sowell, E., Thompson, P., Holmes, C. et al. In vivo evidence for post-adolescent brain maturation in frontal and striatal regions. Nat Neurosci 2, 859–861 (1999).

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