Cortical Structure and Cognition in Infants and Toddlers

Girault, J. B., Cornea, E., Goldman, B. D., Jha, S. C., Murphy, V. A., Li, G., Wang, L., Shen, D., Knickmeyer, R. C., Styner, M., & Gilmore, J. H.

From the abstract: "Cortical structure has been consistently related to cognitive abilities in children and adults, yet we know little about how the cortex develops to support emergent cognition in infancy and toddlerhood when cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA) are maturing rapidly. In this report, we assessed how regional and global measures of CT and SA in a sample (N = 487) of healthy neonates, 1-year-olds, and 2-year-olds related to motor, language, visual reception, and general cognitive ability. We report novel findings that thicker cortices at ages 1 and 2 and larger SA at birth, age 1, and age 2 confer a cognitive advantage in infancy and toddlerhood. While several expected brain–cognition relationships were observed, overlapping cortical regions were also implicated across cognitive domains, suggesting that infancy marks a period of plasticity and refinement in cortical structure to support burgeoning motor, language, and cognitive abilities. CT may be a particularly important morphological indicator of ability, but its impact on cognition is relatively weak when compared with gestational age and maternal education. Findings suggest that prenatal and early postnatal cortical developments are important for cognition in infants and toddlers but should be considered in relation to other child and demographic factors."

Available here: Cerebral Cortex
Citation: Girault, J. B., Cornea, E., Goldman, B. D., Jha, S. C., Murphy, V. A., Li, G., . . . Gilmore, J. H. (2020). Cortical structure and cognition in infants and toddlers. Cerebral Cortex, 30, 786-800.
DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhz126