Child's cognitive function known by brain's white matter

The findings indicate that common relationship between white matter tracts at birth predicts overall cognitive development.

Washington: White matter microstructure, which is present at birth and develops after the birth of a kid, predicts cognitive function till two years of age, as per a new study.

This study can help identify cognitive problems and psychiatric disorders very early and develop appropriate interventions.

The findings indicate that common relationship between white matter tracts at birth predicts overall cognitive development when the kid is one-year-old and language development at two years, indicating it may be possible to use brain imaging at birth to understand better how a child's cognitive development will proceed in the first two year after birth.

"There is rapid growth of brain structure, cognition and behavior in early childhood and we are just starting to understand how they are related," said senior author John H. Gilmore from University of North Carolina Health Care in the US.

"With a better understanding of these relationships, we ultimately hope to be able to identify children at risk for cognitive problems or psychiatric disorders very early and come up with interventions that can help the brain develop in a way to improve function and reduce risk," Gilmore explained.

The study was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. White matter is the tissue in the brain that contains axon fibers, which connect neurons in one brain region to neurons in another region. White matter is critical for normal brain function and little is known about how white matter develops in humans or how it is related to growth of cognitive skills in early childhood, including language development.

In the study, 685 children received diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) scans of their brains to investigate the microstructure of 12 white matter fiber tracts important for cognitive function, their relationship to developing cognitive function and their heritability.

They found that all 12 of the fiber tracts in the newborns were highly related to each other. By age one, these fiber tracts had begun to differentiate themselves from each other and by age two this differentiation was further advanced.

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