Increased segregation of functional networks in developing brains

Wei He*, Paul F. Sowman, Jon Brock, Andrew C. Etchell, Cornelis J. Stam, Arjan Hillebrand

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    A growing literature conceptualises typical brain development from a network perspective. However, largely due to technical and methodological challenges inherent in paediatric functional neuroimaging, there remains an important gap in our knowledge regarding the typical development of functional brain networks in “preschool” childhood (i.e., children younger than 6 years of age). In this study, we recorded brain oscillatory activity using age-appropriate magnetoencephalography in 24 children, including 14 preschool children aged from 4 to 6 years and 10 school children aged from 7 to 12 years. We compared the topology of the resting-state brain networks in these children, estimated using minimum spanning tree (MST) constructed from phase synchrony between beamformer-reconstructed time-series, with that of 24 adults. Our results show that during childhood the MST topology shifts from a star-like (centralised) toward a more line-like (de-centralised) configuration, indicating the functional brain networks become increasingly segregated. In addition, the increasing global network segregation is frequency-independent and accompanied by decreases in centrality (or connectedness) of cortical regions with age, especially in areas of the default mode network. We propose a heuristic MST model of “network space”, which posits a clear developmental trajectory for the emergence of complex brain networks. Our results not only revealed topological reorganisation of functional networks across multiple temporal and spatial scales in childhood, but also fill a gap in the literature regarding neurophysiological mechanisms of functional brain maturation during the preschool years of childhood.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)607-620
    Number of pages14
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2019


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