Gray Matter Growth is Accompanied by Increasing Blood Flow and Decreasing Apparent Diffusion Coefficient During Childhood

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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Normal values of gray matter volume, cerebral blood flow, and water diffusion have not been established for healthy children. We sought to determine reference values for age-dependent changes of these parameters in healthy children.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed MR imaging data from 100 healthy children. Using an atlas-based approach, age-related normal values for regional CBF, apparent diffusion coefficient, and volume were determined for the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, thalamus, caudate, putamen, globus pallidus, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens.

RESULTS: All gray matter structures grew rapidly before the age of 10 years and then plateaued or slightly declined thereafter. The ADC of all structures decreased with age, with the most rapid changes occurring prior to the age of 5 years. With the exception of the globus pallidus, CBF increased rather linearly with age.

CONCLUSIONS: Normal brain gray matter is characterized by rapid early volume growth and increasing CBF with concomitantly decreasing ADC. The extracted reference data that combine CBF and ADC parameters during brain growth may provide a useful resource when assessing pathologic changes in children.