Cerebral white matter undergoes a rapid and complex maturation during the early postnatal period. Prior magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of early postnatal development have often been limited by small sample size, single-modality imaging, and univariate analytics. Here, we applied nonnegative matrix factorization, an unsupervised multivariate pattern analysis technique, to T2w/T1w signal ratio maps from the Developing Human Connectome Project (n = 342 newborns) revealing patterns of coordinated white matter maturation. These patterns showed divergent age-related maturational trajectories, which were replicated in another independent cohort (n = 239). Furthermore, we showed that T2w/T1w signal variations in these maturational patterns are explained by differential contributions of white matter microstructural indices derived from diffusion-weighted MRI. Finally, we demonstrated how white matter maturation patterns relate to distinct histological features by comparing our findings with postmortem late fetal/early postnatal brain tissue staining. Together, these results delineate concise and effective representation of early postnatal white matter reorganization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4015-4030.e4
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 7 2022


  • MRI
  • Neurodevelopment
  • data-driven parcellation
  • histology
  • newborn
  • subplate remnant
  • tissue microstructure
  • topography
  • unsupervised machine learning
  • white matter maturation


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