Patterns of coordinated cortical remodeling during adolescence and their associations with functional specialization and evolutionary expansion

Aristeidis Sotiras, Jon B. Toledo, Raquel E. Gur, Ruben C. Gur, Theodore D. Satterthwaite, Christos Davatzikos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


During adolescence, the human cortex undergoes substantial remodeling to support a rapid expansion of behavioral repertoire. Accurately quantifying these changes is a prerequisite for understanding normal brain development, as well as the neuropsychiatric disorders that emerge in this vulnerable period. Past accounts have demonstrated substantial regional heterogeneity in patterns of brain development, but frequently have been limited by small samples and analytics that do not evaluate complex multivariate imaging patterns. Capitalizing on recent advances in multivariate analysis methods, we used nonnegative matrix factorization (NMF) to uncover coordinated patterns of cortical development in a sample of 934 youths ages 8-20, who completed structural neuroimaging as part of the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort. Patterns of structural covariance (PSCs) derived by NMF were highly reproducible over a range of resolutions, and differed markedly from common gyral-based structural atlases. Moreover, PSCs were largely symmetric and showed correspondence to specific large-scale functional networks. The level of correspondence was ordered according to their functional role and position in the evolutionary hierarchy, being high in lower-order visual and somatomotor networks and diminishing in higher-order association cortex. Furthermore, PSCs showed divergent developmental associations, with PSCs in higher-order association cortex networks showing greater changes with age than primary somatomotor and visual networks. Critically, such developmental changes within PSCs were significantly associated with the degree of evolutionary cortical expansion. Together, our findings delineate a set of structural brain networks that undergo coordinated cortical thinning during adolescence, which is in part governed by evolutionary novelty and functional specialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3527-3532
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 28 2017


  • Cortical organization
  • Cortical thickness
  • Development
  • MRI
  • Nonnegative matrix factorization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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