Emerging Structure–Function Relations in the Developing Face Processing System
Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
To evaluate emerging structure–function relations in a neural circuit that mediates complex behavior, we investigated age-related differences among cortical regions that support face recognition behavior and the fiber tracts through which they transmit and receive signals using functional neuroimaging and diffusion tensor imaging. In a large sample of human participants (aged 6–23 years), we derived the microstructural and volumetric properties of the inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and control tracts, using independently defined anatomical markers. We also determined the functional characteristics of core face- and place-selective regions that are distributed along the trajectory of the pathways of interest. We observed disproportionately large age-related differences in the volume, fractional anisotropy, and mean and radial, but not axial, diffusivities of the ILF. Critically, these differences in the structural properties of the ILF were tightly and specifically linked with an age-related increase in the size of a key face-selective functional region, the fusiform face area. This dynamic association between emerging structural and functional architecture in the developing brain may provide important clues about the mechanisms by which neural circuits become organized and optimized in the human cortex.