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Brain charts for the human lifespan

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Elizabeth Weir.

Over the past 25 years, neuroimaging has become a ubiquitous tool in basic research and clinical studies of the human brain. However, there are no reference standards against which to anchor measures of individual differences in brain morphology, in contrast to growth charts for traits such as height and weight. Here, we built an interactive online resource ( to quantify individual differences in brain structure from any current or future magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, against models of expected age-related trends. With the goal of basing these on the largest and most inclusive dataset, we aggregated MRI data spanning 115 days post-conception through 100 postnatal years, totaling 122,123 scans from 100,071 individuals in over 100 studies across 6 continents. When quantified as centile scores relative to the reference models, individual differences show high validity with non-MRI brain growth estimates and high stability across longitudinal assessment. Centile scores helped identify previously unreported brain developmental milestones and demonstrated increased genetic heritability compared to non-centiled MRI phenotypes. Crucially for the study of brain disorders, centile scores provide a standardised and interpretable measure of deviation that reveals new patterns of neuroanatomical differences across neurological and psychiatric disorders emerging during development and ageing. In sum, brain charts for the human lifespan are an essential first step towards robust, standardised quantification of individual variation and for characterizing deviation from age-related trends. Our global collaborative study provides such an anchorpoint for basic neuroimaging research and will facilitate implementation of research-based standards in clinical studies.

This talk is part of the ARClub Talks series.

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