Functional Connectome of the Fetal Brain

Turk E1,2van den Heuvel MI3Benders MJ4,2de Heus R4Franx A4Manning JH5,6Hect JL5,6Hernandez-Andrade E6,7Hassan SS6,7,8Romero R6,9,10,11Kahn RS12Thomason ME13,14,15van den Heuvel MP16,17

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.