Turk E, van den Heuvel MI, Benders MJ, de Heus R, Franx A, Manning JH, Hect JL, Hernandez-Andrade E, Hassan SS, Romero R, Kahn RS, Thomason ME, van den Heuvel MP (2022). Functional Connectome of the Fetal Brain. Journal of Neuroscience 4 December 2019, 39 (49) 9716-9724; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2891-18.2019.
Large-scale functional connectome formation and reorganization is apparent in the second trimester of pregnancy, making it a crucial and vulnerable time window in connectome development. Here we identified which architectural principles of functional connectome organization are initiated before birth, and contrast those with topological characteristics observed in the mature adult brain. A sample of 105 pregnant women participated in human fetal resting-state fMRI studies (fetal gestational age between 20 and 40 weeks). Connectome analysis was used to analyze weighted network characteristics of fetal macroscale brain wiring. We identified efficient network attributes, common functional modules, and high overlap between the fetal and adult brain network. Our results indicate that key features of the functional connectome are present in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Understanding the organizational principles of fetal connectome organization may bring opportunities to develop markers for early detection of alterations of brain function.