Conservative and disruptive modes of adolescent change in brain functional connectivity

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Author Name

František Váša

Rafael Romero-Garcia

Jakob Seidlitz

Ameera X. Patel

Peter Fonagy

Raymond J. Dolan

Peter B. Jones

Ian M. Goodyer

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Adolescent changes in human brain function are not entirely understood. Here we used multi-echo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure developmental change in functional connectivity (FC) of resting-state oscillations between pairs of 330 cortical regions and 16 subcortical regions in N=298 healthy adolescents. Participants were aged 14-26 years and were scanned on two or more occasions at least 6 months apart. We found two distinct modes of age-related change in FC: "conservative'' and "disruptive''. Conservative development was characteristic of primary cortex, which was strongly connected at 14 years and became even more connected in the period 14-26 years. Disruptive development was characteristic of association cortex, hippocampus and amygdala, which were not strongly connected at 14 years but became more strongly connected during adolescence. We defined the maturational index (MI) as the signed coefficient of the linear relationship between baseline FC (at 14 years, FC14) and adolescent change in FC (ΔFC14-26). Disruptive systems (with negative MI) were functionally specialised for social cognition and autobiographical memory and were significantly co-located with prior maps of aerobic glycolysis (AG), AG-related gene expression, post-natal expansion of cortical surface area, and adolescent shrinkage of cortical depth. We conclude that human brain organization is disrupted during adolescence by the emergence of strong functional connectivity of subcortical nuclei and association cortical areas, representing metabolically expensive re-modelling of synaptic connectivity between brain regions that were not strongly connected in childhood. We suggest that this re-modelling process may support emergence of social skills and self-awareness during healthy human adolescence.

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