A longitudinal analysis of puberty-related cortical development Academic Article uri icon


  • The brain undergoes extensive structural changes during adolescence, concurrent to puberty-related physical and hormonal changes. While animal research suggests these biological processes are related to one another, our knowledge of brain development in humans is largely based on age-related processes. Thus, the current study characterized puberty-related changes in human brain structure, by combining data from two longitudinal neuroimaging cohorts. Beyond normative changes in cortical thickness, we examined whether individual differences in the rate of pubertal maturation (or "pubertal tempo") was associated with variations in cortical trajectories. Participants (N = 192; scans = 366) completed up to three waves of MRI assessments between 8.5 and 14.5 years of age, as well as questionnaire assessments of pubertal stage at each wave. Generalized additive mixture models were used to characterize trajectories of cortical development. Results revealed widespread linear puberty-related changes across much of the cortex. Many of these changes, particularly within the frontal and parietal cortices, were independent of age-related development. Males exhibiting faster pubertal tempo demonstrated greater thinning in the precuneus and frontal cortices than same-aged and -sex peers. Findings suggest that the unique influence of puberty on cortical development may be more extensive than previously identified, and also emphasize important individual differences in the coupling of these developmental processes.


  • Vijayakumar, Nandita
  • Youssef, George J
  • Allen, Nicholas B
  • Anderson, Vicki
  • Efron, Daryl
  • Hazell, Philip
  • Mundy, Lisa
  • Nicholson, Jan M
  • Patton, George
  • Seal, Marc L
  • Simmons, Julian G
  • Whittle, Sarah
  • Silk, Tim

publication date

  • March 2021