The Developing Human Connectome Project: Typical and disrupted perinatal functional connectivity

Michael Eyre, Sean P. Fitzgibbon, Judit Ciarrusta, Lucilio Cordero-Grande, Anthony N. Price, Tanya Poppe, Andreas Schuh, Emer Hughes, Camilla O'Keeffe, Jakki Brandon, Daniel Cromb, Katy Vecchiato, Jesper Andersson, Eugene P. Duff, Serena J. Counsell, Stephen M. Smith, Daniel Rueckert, Joseph V. Hajnal, Tomoki Arichi, Jonathan O'MuircheartaighDafnis Batalle, A. David Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The Developing Human Connectome Project is an Open Science project that provides the first large sample of neonatal functional MRI data with high temporal and spatial resolution. These data enable mapping of intrinsic functional connectivity between spatially distributed brain regions under normal and adverse perinatal circumstances, offering a framework to study the ontogeny of large-scale brain organization in humans. Here, we characterize in unprecedented detail the maturation and integrity of resting state networks (RSNs) at term-equivalent age in 337 infants (including 65 born preterm). First, we applied group independent component analysis to define 11 RSNs in term-born infants scanned at 43.5-44.5 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA). Adult-like topography was observed in RSNs encompassing primary sensorimotor, visual and auditory cortices. Among six higher-order, association RSNs, analogues of the adult networks for language and ocular control were identified, but a complete default mode network precursor was not. Next, we regressed the subject-level datasets from an independent cohort of infants scanned at 37-43.5 weeks PMA against the group-level RSNs to test for the effects of age, sex and preterm birth. Brain mapping in term-born infants revealed areas of positive association with age across four of six association RSNs, indicating active maturation in functional connectivity from 37 to 43.5 weeks PMA. Female infants showed increased connectivity in inferotemporal regions of the visual association network. Preterm birth was associated with striking impairments of functional connectivity across all RSNs in a dose-dependent manner; conversely, connectivity of the superior parietal lobules within the lateral motor network was abnormally increased in preterm infants, suggesting a possible mechanism for specific difficulties such as developmental coordination disorder, which occur frequently in preterm children. Overall, we found a robust, modular, symmetrical functional brain organization at normal term age. A complete set of adult-equivalent primary RSNs is already instated, alongside emerging connectivity in immature association RSNs, consistent with a primary-to-higher order ontogenetic sequence of brain development. The early developmental disruption imposed by preterm birth is associated with extensive alterations in functional connectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2199-2213
Number of pages15
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • brain development
  • functional connectivity
  • neonatology
  • neuroanatomy
  • resting-state connectivity


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