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The Maturation and Cognitive Relevance of Structural Brain Network Organization from Early Infancy to Childhood


Woodburn, Mackenzie; Bricken, Cheyenne L.; Wu, Zhengwang; Li, Gang; Wang, Li; Lin, Weili; Sheridan, Margaret A.; & Cohen, Jessica R. (2021). The Maturation and Cognitive Relevance of Structural Brain Network Organization from Early Infancy to Childhood. Neuroimage, 238, 118232. PMCID: PMC8372198


The interactions of brain regions with other regions at the network level likely provide the infrastructure necessary for cognitive processes to develop. Specifically, it has been theorized that in infancy brain networks become more modular, or segregated, to support early cognitive specialization, before integration across networks increases to support the emergence of higher-order cognition. The present study examined the maturation of structural covariance networks (SCNs) derived from longitudinal cortical thickness data collected between infancy and childhood (0-6 years). We assessed modularity as a measure of network segregation and global efficiency as a measure of network integration. At the group level, we observed trajectories of increasing modularity and decreasing global efficiency between early infancy and six years. We further examined subject-based maturational coupling networks (sbMCNs) in a subset of this cohort with cognitive outcome data at 8-10 years, which allowed us to relate the network organization of longitudinal cortical thickness maturation to cognitive outcomes in middle childhood. We found that lower global efficiency of sbMCNs throughout early development (across the first year) related to greater motor learning at 8-10 years. Together, these results provide novel evidence characterizing the maturation of brain network segregation and integration across the first six years of life, and suggest that specific trajectories of brain network maturation contribute to later cognitive outcomes.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title



Woodburn, Mackenzie
Bricken, Cheyenne L.
Wu, Zhengwang
Li, Gang
Wang, Li
Lin, Weili
Sheridan, Margaret A.
Cohen, Jessica R.

Article Type





United States of America


North Carolina


Sheridan - 0000-0002-8909-7501