Maturation of the striatum has been posited to play a primary role in observed increases in adolescent sensation-seeking. However, evidence of neurophysiological maturation in the human adolescent striatum is limited. We applied T2∗-weighted imaging, reflecting indices of tissue-iron concentration, to provide direct in vivo evidence of neurophysiological development of the human adolescent striatum. Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) of striatal T2∗-weighted signal generated age predictions that accounted for over 60% of the sample variance in 10-25 year olds, using both task-related and resting state fMRI. Dorsal and ventral striatum showed age related increases and decreases respectively of striatal neurophysiology suggesting qualitative differences in the maturation of limbic and executive striatal systems. In particular, the ventral striatum was found to show the greatest developmental differences and contribute most heavily to the multivariate age predictor. The relationship of the T2∗-weighted signal to the striatal dopamine system is discussed. Together, results provide evidence for protracted maturation of the striatum through adolescence.
Larsen, B., & Luna, B. (2015). In vivo evidence of neurophysiological maturation of the human adolescent striatum. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 12, 74–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2014.12.003