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Brain structural maturation and the foundations of cognitive behavioral development

Walhovd, Kristine B.; Tamnes, Christian K.; Fjell, Anders M.

doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000074

Purpose of review Thorough knowledge of normal neural foundations for cognitive behavioral development is fundamental to understand the mechanisms of both neurodevelopmental disorders and normal adaptation. This review aims at identifying the trends in MRI studies published within the last 18 months illuminating maturational structural brain foundations for normal cognitive behavioral development.

Recent findings Development is coordinated within neurocognitive systems, with predictable functional correlates. There is great individual variability within the normal range. Relationships between brain and cognitive variance at any given age are moderate, and appear to be of a complex and dynamic nature. Importantly, current studies point to a dimensional component to cognitive and behavioral psychopathology in which differences among healthy and clinical developmental groups exist along a continuum. Finally, factors influencing and detectable in early development are likely to have lifespan consequences.

Summary Brain development is highly coordinated, but the normal individual variation at any given age is substantial. Relationships between brain and cognitive measures are typically moderate and may fluctuate with age. A dimensional component to neural foundations for multiple developmental disorders makes the study of normal individual brain differences in development even more important to understand both normal and clinical cognitive behavioral outcomes throughout life.

Research Group for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Correspondence to Kristine B. Walhovd, Department of Psychology, LCBC, University of Oslo, POB 1094 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway. Tel: +47 22845130; e-mail:

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins