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May 2016

Maps of the Development of the Brain’s Functional Architecture: Could They Provide Growth Charts for Psychiatry?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Section on Neurobehavioral Clinical Research, Social and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, Intramural Program of the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(5):445-446. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0140

Health care professionals working with young children are familiar with growth charts. For example, deviation from age-expected values in head circumference triggers an evaluation for underlying disorders. Although it is an invaluable measure, head circumference is nonetheless imperfectly correlated with brain volume and does not reflect brain function. Imagine a future in which a child’s neuropsychiatric status is assessed through reference to charts that directly measure brain maturation. This possibility seems far-fetched; however, the study by Kessler and colleagues1 joins other recent work as tentative steps in this direction.