Development of the Brain Functional Connectome Follows Puberty-Dependent Nonlinear Trajectories


Adolescence is a developmental period that dramatically impacts body and behavior, with pubertal hormones playing an important role not only in the morphological changes in the body but also in brain structure and function. Understanding brain development during adolescence has become a priority in neuroscience because it coincides with the onset of many psychiatric and behavioral disorders. However, little is known about how puberty influences the brain functional connectome. In this study, taking a longitudinal human sample of typically developing children and adolescents (of both sexes), we demonstrate that the development of the brain functional connectome better fits pubertal status than chronological age. In particular, centrality, segregation, efficiency, and integration of the brain functional connectome increase after the onset of the pubertal markers. We found that these effects are stronger in attention and task control networks. Lastly, after controlling for this effect, we showed that functional connectivity between these networks is related to better performance in cognitive flexibility. This study points out the importance of considering longitudinal nonlinear trends when exploring developmental trajectories, and emphasizes the impact of puberty on the functional organization of the brain in adolescence.