Brain Maturation

The focus of the research is on brain and behavioral development during childhood and adolescence in health and disease, and on the impact of genetic, biological and environmental factors. Structural and functional brain maturation is assessed with multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques.


The focus of the research is on brain and behavioral development during childhood and adolescence in health and disease, and on the impact of genetic, biological and environmental factors. Structural and functional brain maturation is assessed with multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. Measurements, such as brain structure volumes, cortical thickness and area, fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity (measures of white matter microstructure), fiber tract characteristics, and brain activation at rest or during the performance of specific psychological tasks, are related to clinical, behavioral, biochemical and genetic variables.

The two main research projects in the field of brain maturation are the HUBU ("Hjernens Udvikling hos Børn og Unge": Brain maturation in children and adolescents) project and the Glucocorticoid project.

Research projects

HUBU (“Hjernens Udvikling hos Børn og Unge“: Brain maturation in children and adolescents)

This project aims to define the degree of variability in the maturational trajectories of different brain circuits among healthy children, and to link these to developing cognitive, emotional and neuroendocrine functions. Moreover, we examine the impact of environmental factors, e.g. alcohol use, physical activity and stress, as well as intrinsic factors, e.g. genetic polymorphisms and hormones, on such development. The work addresses critical questions regarding the factors that place young people at risk for developing emotional problems and substance abuse, as well as related questions regarding the consequences of early stress and exposure to alcohol and drugs on continuing biological development of the brain.


brain maturation


HUBU is an ongoing longitudinal project, which started in Spring 2007, and included 94 children aged 7-13 years at baseline. The first 10 assessments were conducted with 6-month intervals, the 11th assessment one year later (2013), and the 12th assessment three years later (finalized July 2016). At each assessment, participants underwent approximately one hour MRI, and two hours of clinical and behavioral assessments, including computerized cognitive and emotional tasks, questionnaires, e.g. personality traits, stressful life events, physical activity, and saliva samples. Moreover, in parallel to the first five assessments the Danish School of Education and the National Center for Reading tested children's math and reading skills at their schools. Presently, we are analyzing the wealth of longitudinal data and finalizing papers.

The Glucocorticoid Project

The project examines potential long-term effects of glucocorticoid treatment for non-cerebral diseases in early life on brain structure and function in children and adolescents aged 7-14 years. To examine the long-term effects of glucocorticoids, two clinical groups diagnosed with rheumatic or nephritic disorder were enrolled in the study alongside a control group matched on sex and age. The two clinical groups have been treated with high doses of exogenous glucocorticoid in (pre)school years. All participants underwent structural MRI and DWI, and clinical and neuropsychological assessments. Furthermore, two fMRI paradigms designed to engage brain regions enriched with glucocorticoid receptors were implemented. Salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase samples were collected during scanning and on two separate normal weekdays. The project started in Summer 2010, and the data acquisition was completed May 2012. The project resulted in two PhD theses and journal papers on the study’s outcomes are being finalized. 


  • PhD thesis: 4 finalized, 1 ongoing
  • MSc Thesis: 5 finalized, 1 ongoing
  • Research year projects: 2 finalized, 1 ongoing
  • BSc Thesis: 2 finalized


FSS (Frie Forskningsråd | Sundhed og Sygdom)
The Lundbeck Foundation
Hvidovre Hospital's Research Foundation
Faculty of Health Sciences (SUND), University of Copenhagen
Institute of Psychology, University of Copenhagen
Savværksejer Jeppe Juhl og Hustru Evita Juhls mindelegat


Associated Publications

Madsen KS, Jernigan TL, Vestergaard M, Mortensen, EL, Baaré WFC. Neuroticism is linked to microstructural left-right asymmetry of fronto-limbic fibre tracts in adolescents with opposite effects in boys and girls. Neuropsychologia. Epub ahead of print.

Holm, KS, Madsen KS, Vestergaard M, Paulson OB, Uldall P, Siebner HR, Born AP, Baaré WFC. Total brain, cortical and white matter volumes in children previously treated with glucocorticoids. Pediatric Research. Epub ahead of print.

Vestergaard M, Holm SK, Uldall P, Siebner HR, Paulson OB, Baaré WFC, Madsen KS. Glucocorticoid treatment earlier in childhood and adolescence show dose-response associations with diurnal cortisol levels. Developmental Psychobiology, 2017, 59(8): 1010-1020.

Angstman S, Madsen KS, Skimminge A, Jernigan TL, Baaré WF, Siebner HR. Microstructural asymmetry of the corticospinal tracts predict right-left differences incircle drawing skill in right-handed adolescents. Brain Structure and Function, 2016, Brain Struct Funct. 2016 Dec;221(9):4475-4489.

Holm SK, Vestergaard M, Madsen KS, Baaré WF, Hammer TB, Born AP, Siebner HR, Paulson OB, Uldall PV. Children and adolescents previously treated with glucocorticoids display lower verbal intellectual abilities. Acta Paediatrica, 2015, 104(8): 784-91.

Aarnink SH, Vos SB, Leemans A, Jernigan TL, Madsen KS, Baaré WFC. Automated Longitudinal Intra-Subject Analysis (ALISA) for diffusion MRI tractography. Neuroimage, 2014, 86:404-416.

Klarborg B; Madsen KS; Vestergaard M; Skimminge A; Jernigan TL; Baaré WFC. Sustained attention is associated with right superior longitudinal fasciculus and superior parietal white matter microstructure in children. Human Brain Mapping, 2013, 34(12): 3216-32.

Madsen KS; Baaré WF; Skimminge A; Vestergaard M; Siebner HR; Jernigan TL. Brain microstructural correlates of visuospatial choice reaction time in children. Neuroimage, 2011, 58(4): 1090-1100.

Jernigan TL; Baare WF; Stiles J; Madsen KS. Postnatal brain development: Structural imaging of dynamic neurodevelopmental processes. Progress in Brain Research 2011, 189: 77-92.

Vestergaard M; Madsen KS; Baare WF; Skimminge A; Ejersbo LR; Ramsoy TZ; Gerlach C; Akeson P; Paulson OB; Jernigan TL. White matter microstructure in superior longitudinal fasciculus associated with spatial working memory performance in children. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 2011, 23(9): 2135-2146.

Madsen KS; Baare WF; Vestergaard M; Skimminge A; Ejersbo LR; Ramsoy TZ; Gerlach C; Akeson P; Paulson OB; Jernigan TL. Response inhibition is associated with white matter microstructure in children. Neuropsychologia, 2010, 48(4): 854-862.

Group Members

William Frans Christiaan Baaré

Group Leader

Kathrine Skak Madsen

Group Leader

Louise Baruël Johansen


Jonathan Holm-Skjold

PhD Student

Show all associated staff

External Collaborators

Prof. Terry Jernigan

Center for Human Development, University of California San Diego

Dr. Alexander Leemans

University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Dr. Simon Fristed Eskildsen

Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Denmark

Prof. Sven Kreiborg

Craniofacial Unit, Department of Clinical Genetics, Rigshospitalet, Denmark

Dr. Mark Lyksborg

DTU Compute, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark

Prof. Peter Uldall

Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Rigshospitalet, Denmark

Dr. Wesley Thompson

Research Institute for Biological Psychiatry, Mental Health Centre Sct. Hans; Roskilde, Denmark