PloS one 2017 07 1112(7) e0180973 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0180973
Longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies reveal significant changes in brain structure and structural networks that occur together with cognitive and behavioral maturation in childhood. However, the underlying cellular changes accompanying brain maturation are less understood. Examining regional age-related changes in metabolite levels provides insight into the physiology of neurodevelopment. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) measures localize brain metabolism. The majority of neuroimaging studies of healthy development are from the developed world. In a longitudinal MRS study of 64 South African children aged 5 to 10 years old (29 female; 29 HIV exposed, uninfected), we examined the age-related trajectories of creatine (Cr+PCr), N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA), the combined NAA+N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate (NAAG), choline (GPC+PCh), glutamate (Glu) and the combined Glu+glutamine (Glu+Gln) in voxels within gray and white matter, as well as subcortically in the basal ganglia (BG). In frontal gray matter, we found age-related increases in Cr+PCr, NAA, NAA+NAAG and Glu+Gln levels pointing to synaptic activity likely related to learning. In the BG we observed increased levels of Glu, Glu+Gln and NAA+NAAG with age that point to subcortical synaptic reorganization. In white matter, we found increased levels of Cr+PCr, NAA, NAA+NAAG, Glu and Glu+Gln with age, implicating these metabolites in ongoing myelination. We observed no sex-age or HIV exposure-age interactions, indicating that physiological changes are independent of sex during this time period. The metabolite trajectories presented, therefore, provide a critical benchmark of normal cellular growth for a low socioeconomic pediatric population in the developing world against which pathology and abnormal development may be compared.