Neural System - Postnatal

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WHO motor development milestones
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| Neonatal Development | original page

Newborn abnormal

Newborn ab 01.jpg Newborn ab 03.jpg Newborn ab 17.jpg Newborn ab 20.jpg Newborn ab 27.jpg
behaviour tone positions reflexes head

Cortex Development

Recent NIH research has looked at the postnatal development of the cortex in children (Cortex Matures Faster in Youth with Highest IQ)

"The researchers found that the relationship between cortex thickness and IQ varied with age, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, seat of abstract reasoning, planning, and other "executive" functions. .... While the cortex was thinning in all groups by the teen years, the superior group showed the highest rates of change."

Postnatal cortex development trajectory.jpg

The developmental trajectory in cortex thickness differs as the brain matures in different IQ groups. Thickness of the area at the top/front/center, highlighted in MRI brain maps at left, peaks relatively late, at age 12 (blue arrow), in youth with superior intelligence, perhaps reflecting an extended critical period for development of high-level cognitive circuits. (Image and text source: NIMH Child Psychiatry Branch)

Neurological Assessment

There are many different neurological assessment tests that have been designed over the years using a number of motor and intelligence (comprehension) skill tests. Some of these assessment tests are applicable to specific early neurological development ages. PD Larsen and SS Stensaas from the Utah School of Medicine have also made a series of movies demonstrating normal postnatal neurological development assessment.


  • Test of Infant Motor Performance (TIMP) can be used in very early development (from 32 weeks post-conceptional age to 4 months post-term). Involves observation of 28 items and elicitation of 31 items measures behaviours of functional relevance.
  • Einstein Neonatal Neurobehavioral Assessment Scale
  • Neurobehavioral Assessment of the Preterm Infant
  • Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) a postnatal (from 1 to 42 months) neurological assessment scale used in screening and diagnosis of development using 178 item mental scale and the 111 item motor scale, the original BSID was revised in 1993 to version 2 (BSID-II).
  • Peabody Developmental Motor Scale II (PDMS-2) tests a child’s motor competence relative to his or her peers. Involves a series of evaluations: reflexes (8 items), stationary/nonlocomotor (30 items), locomotion (89 items), object manipulation (24 items), grasping (26 items) and visual-motor integration (72 items).


  • Alberta Infant Motor Scale (AIMS) birth to 18 months. Identify infants with motor delay (discrimination) and evaluates motor development over time.
  • Battelle Developmental Inventory Screening Test (BDIST) for children 6 months to 8 years old.
  • Brief Assessment of Motor Function (BAMF) is a series of 10-point ordinal scales developed for rapid description of gross motor, fine motor, and oral motor performance.
  • Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence (FTII)
  • Comprehensive Developmental Inventory for Infants and Toddlers (CDIIT) a developmental test designed in Taiwan.
  • Denver-II (CDIIT) a historic test redesigned as a version 2, for 3 and 72 months of age. It has been suggested that the test may require additional revision for better accuracy.
  • Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (1978) ages 4.5 to 14.5 years.
  • Early Language Milestone Scale-2, Early Intervention Developmental Profile (EIDP), Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM)

There are also a range of task based tests: Means-End Problem-Solving Task, Operant Discrimination Learning, Mobile/Train Conjugate Reinforcement Tasks, The Transparent Barrier Detour Task, The A-not-B Task

Related Images


Developmental changes in cerebral grey and white matter volume from infancy to adulthood.

Int J Dev Neurosci. 2010 Oct;28(6):481-9. Epub 2010 Jun 30. Groeschel S, Vollmer B, King MD, Connelly A.

Radiology and Physics Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK. Abstract

In order to quantify human brain development in vivo, high resolution magnetic resonance images of 158 normal subjects from infancy to young adulthood were studied (age range 3 months-30 years, 71 males, 87 females). Data were analysed using algorithms based on voxel-based morphometry (VBM) (an objective whole brain processing technique) to generate global volume measures of whole brain, grey matter (GM) and white matter (GM). Gender-specific development of WM and GM volumes is characterised using a piecewise polynomial growth curve model to account for the non-linear nature of human brain development, implemented using Markov chain Monte Carlo simulation. The statistical method employed in this study proved to be successful and robust in the characterisation of brain development. The resulting growth curve parameter estimates lead to the following observations: total brain volume is demonstrated to undergo an initial rapid spurt. The total GM volume peaks during childhood and decreases thereafter, whereas total WM volume increases up to young adulthood. Relative to brain size, GM decreases and WM increases markedly over this age range in a non-linear manner, resulting in an increasing WM-to-GM ratio over much of the observed age range. In addition, significant gender differences are found. In general, brain volume and total white and grey matter volume are larger in males than in females, with a time-dependent difference over the age range studied. Over part of the observed age range females tend to have more GM volume relative to brain size and lower WM-to-GM ratio than males. The presented findings should be taken into account when investigating physiological and pathological changes during brain development.

Heterogeneity in subcortical brain development: A structural magnetic resonance imaging study of brain maturation from 8 to 30 years.

J Neurosci. 2009 Sep 23;29(38):11772-82.

Ostby Y, Tamnes CK, Fjell AM, Westlye LT, Due-Tønnessen P, Walhovd KB.

Center for the Study of Human Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway. Abstract Brain development during late childhood and adolescence is characterized by decreases in gray matter (GM) and increases in white matter (WM) and ventricular volume. The dynamic nature of development across different structures is, however, not well understood, and the present magnetic resonance imaging study took advantage of a whole-brain segmentation approach to describe the developmental trajectories of 16 neuroanatomical volumes in the same sample of children, adolescents, and young adults (n = 171; range, 8-30 years). The cerebral cortex, cerebral WM, caudate, putamen, pallidum, accumbens area, hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, brainstem, cerebellar GM, cerebellar WM, lateral ventricles, inferior lateral ventricles, third ventricle, and fourth ventricle were studied. The cerebral cortex was further analyzed in terms of lobar thickness and surface area. The results revealed substantial heterogeneity in developmental trajectories. GM decreased nonlinearly in the cerebral cortex and linearly in the caudate, putamen, pallidum, accumbens, and cerebellar GM, whereas the amygdala and hippocampus showed slight, nonlinear increases in GM volume. WM increased nonlinearly in both the cerebrum and cerebellum, with an earlier maturation in cerebellar WM. In addition to similarities in developmental trajectories within subcortical regions, our results also point to differences between structures within the same regions: among the basal ganglia, the caudate showed a weaker relationship with age than the putamen and pallidum, and in the cerebellum, differences were found between GM and WM development. These results emphasize the importance of studying a wide range of structural variables in the same sample, for a broader understanding of brain developmental principles.

A structural MRI study of human brain development from birth to 2 years.

Knickmeyer RC, Gouttard S, Kang C, Evans D, Wilber K, Smith JK, Hamer RM, Lin W, Gerig G, Gilmore JH. J Neurosci. 2008 Nov 19;28(47):12176-82. PMID: 19020011

Critical Periods of Human Development

Exposure to teratogens during these "critical periods" results in specific abnormalities. Critical Periods

  • most systems are susceptible during embryonic development (first trimester)
  • the earlier the exposure the more severe the effects
  • each system has a different critical period
  • longest critical periods
    • longest developing systems (neural, genital)
    • complicated developmental origins (sensory systems)



  • The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (8th Edition) by Keith L. Moore and T.V.N Persaud - Mesoderm Ch15,16: p405-423, 426-430 Body Cavities Ch9: p174-184
  • Larsen’s Human Embryology by GC. Schoenwolf, SB. Bleyl, PR. Brauer and PH. Francis-West - Mesoderm Ch11 p311-339 Body Cavities Ch6 p127-146

Additional Textbooks

  • Before We Are Born (5th ed.) Moore and Persaud Ch16,17: p379-397, 399-405
  • Essentials of Human Embryology Larson Ch11 p207-228
  • Human Embryology Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald Body Cavities Ch5 p29-32, Ch7 p47,48
  • Human Embryology and Developmental Biology ?Carlson Ch9,10: p173-193, 209-222 Body Cavities Ch5 p29-32, Ch7 p47,48


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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2019, December 6) Embryology Neural System - Postnatal. Retrieved from

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© Dr Mark Hill 2019, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G