The developmental trajectory of 1H-MRS brain metabolites from childhood to adulthood

Alice R. Thomson, Hannah Hwa, Duanghathai Pasanta, Benjamin Hopwood, Helen J. Powell, Ross Lawrence, Zeus G. Tabuenca, Tomoki Arichi, Richard A.E. Edden, Xiaoqian Chai, Nicolaas A. Puts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human brain development is ongoing throughout childhood, with for example, myelination of nerve fibers and refinement of synaptic connections continuing until early adulthood. 1H-Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (1H-MRS) can be used to quantify the concentrations of endogenous metabolites (e.g. glutamate and γ -aminobutyric acid (GABA)) in the human brain in vivo and so can provide valuable, tractable insight into the biochemical processes that support postnatal neurodevelopment. This can feasibly provide new insight into and aid the management of neurodevelopmental disorders by providing chemical markers of atypical development. This study aims to characterize the normative developmental trajectory of various brain metabolites, as measured by 1H-MRS from a midline posterior parietal voxel. We find significant non-linear trajectories for GABA+ (GABA plus macromolecules), Glx (glutamate + glutamine), total choline (tCho) and total creatine (tCr) concentrations. Glx and GABA+ concentrations steeply decrease across childhood, with more stable trajectories across early adulthood. tCr and tCho concentrations increase from childhood to early adulthood. Total N-acetyl aspartate (tNAA) and Myo-Inositol (mI) concentrations are relatively stable across development. Trajectories likely reflect fundamental neurodevelopmental processes (including local circuit refinement) which occur from childhood to early adulthood and can be associated with cognitive development; we find GABA+ concentrations significantly positively correlate with recognition memory scores.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbhae046
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • edited MRS
  • lifespan
  • metabolites
  • MRS
  • neurodevelopment


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