The morphology of axonal and dendritic arbors in the immature cerebral cortex influences the degree of anisotropy in water diffusion. This enables cortical maturation to be monitored by the noninvasive technique of diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI). Herein, we utilized DTI of postmortem ferret brain to quantify regional and temporal patterns in cortical maturation. We found that diffusion anisotropy within the isocortex decreases over the first month of life, coinciding closely in time with expansion of axonal and dendritic cellular processes of pyramidal neurons. Regional patterns consist of differences between allocortex and isocortex, a regional anisotropy gradient that closely parallels the transverse neurogenetic gradient, and differences between primary and nonprimary isocortical areas. By combining the temporal and regional factors, the isocortical developmental gradient magnitude corresponds to a 5-day difference in maturity between relatively developed rostral/caudal isocortex at the gradient source and less mature isocortex at the occipital pole. Additionally, the developmental trajectory of primary areas precedes nonprimary areas by 2.7 days. These quantitative estimates coincide with previous histological studies of ferret development. Similarities in cerebral cortical diffusion anisotropy observed between ferret and other species suggest the framework developed here is of general potential relevance.
- Dendritic branching
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience