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Brain charts for the human lifespan

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Over the past 25 years, neuroimaging has become a ubiquitous tool in basic research and clinical studies of the human brain. However, no reference standards currently exist to quantify individual differences in neuroimaging metrics over the lifespan, in contrast to growth charts for anthropometric traits such as height and weight. Here, we built an interactive resource ( to benchmark individual differences in brain morphology, measured from any current or future magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, against normative age-related trends. With the goal of basing these reference charts on the largest and most inclusive dataset available, we aggregated 123,984 MRI scans from 101,457 participants in over 100 studies – from 115 days post-conception through 100 postnatal years. Cerebrum tissue volumes and other global or regional MRI metrics were quantified by centile scores, relative to non-linear trajectories, demonstrating concurrent validity with non-MRI brain growth milestones, high stability over longitudinal assessments, and robustness to differences between studies. Brain charts identified previously unreported neurodevelopmental milestones, and centile scores had increased heritability compared to non-centiled MRI phenotypes. Crucially, for clinical purposes, centile scores provided a standardised and interpretable measure of deviation that revealed new patterns of neuroanatomical differences across neurological and psychiatric disorders. In sum, brain charts for the human lifespan are an essential first step towards robust, standardised quantification of deviation from age-related trends in multiple commonly-used neuroimaging phenotypes. Our global collaborative study provides such an anchorpoint for neuroimaging research and will facilitate implementation of quantitative standards in clinical studies.

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This talk is part of the Artificial Intelligence Research Group Talks (Computer Laboratory) series.

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