The role of puberty on physical and brain development: A longitudinal study in male Rhesus Macaques

Z. A. Kovacs-Balint, J. Raper, R. Richardson, A. Gopakumar, K. P. Kettimuthu, M. Higgins, E. Feczko, E. Earl, K. F. Ethun, L. Li, M. Styner, D. Fair, J. Bachevalier, M. M. Sanchez

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This study examined the role of male pubertal maturation on physical growth and development of neurocircuits that regulate stress, emotional and cognitive control using a translational nonhuman primate model. We collected longitudinal data from male macaques between pre- and peri-puberty, including measures of physical growth, pubertal maturation (testicular volume, blood testosterone -T- concentrations) and brain structural and resting-state functional MRI scans to examine developmental changes in amygdala (AMY), hippocampus (HIPPO), prefrontal cortex (PFC), as well as functional connectivity (FC) between those regions. Physical growth and pubertal measures increased from pre- to peri-puberty. The indexes of pubertal maturation -testicular size and T- were correlated at peri-puberty, but not at pre-puberty (23 months). Our findings also showed ICV, AMY, HIPPO and total PFC volumetric growth, but with region-specific changes in PFC. Surprisingly, FC in these neural circuits only showed developmental changes from pre- to peri-puberty for HIPPO-orbitofrontal FC. Finally, testicular size was a better predictor of brain structural maturation than T levels -suggesting gonadal hormones-independent mechanisms-, whereas T was a strong predictor of functional connectivity development. We expect that these neural circuits will show more drastic pubertal-dependent maturation, including stronger associations with pubertal measures later, during and after male puberty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101237
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Apr 2023

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  • Adolescence
  • Amygdala
  • Hippocampus
  • MRI
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Testosterone


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