BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The early postnatal period is perhaps the most dynamic phase of white matter development. We hypothesized that the early postnatal development of the corpus callosum and corticospinal tracts could be studied in unsedated healthy neonates by using novel approaches to diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and quantitative tractography. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Isotropic 2 x 2 x 2 mm3 DTI and structural images were acquired from 47 healthy neonates. DTI and structural images were coregistered and fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and normalized T1-weighted (T1W) and T2-weighted (T2W) signal intensities were determined in central midline and peripheral cortical regions of the white matter tracts of the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum and the central midbrain and peripheral cortical regions of the corticospinal tracts by using quantitative tractography. RESULTS: We observed that central regions exhibited lower MD, higher FA values, higher T1W intensity, and lower T2W intensity than peripheral cortical regions. As expected, MD decreased, FA increased, and T2W signal intensity decreased with increasing age in the genu and corticospinal tract, whereas there was no significant change in T1W signal intensity. The central midline region of the splenium fiber tract has a unique pattern, with no change in MD, FA, or T2W signal intensity with age, suggesting different growth trajectory compared with the other tracts. FA seems to be more dependent on tract organization, whereas MD seems to be more sensitive to myelination. CONCLUSIONS: Our novel approach may detect small regional differences and age-related changes in the corpus callosum and corticospinal white matter tracts in unsedated healthy neonates and may be used for future studies of pediatric brain disorders that affect developing white matter.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Clinical Neurology