The first 1000 days of life are widely recognised as playing a critical role in lifelong physical and mental health. Including childhood (up to 10 years of age), this age space encompasses the most rapid period of brain growth, coincides with the emergence of nearly all fundamental cognitive and behavioral skills and, potentially as a consequence, also overlaps with the onset of numerous developmental, intellectual, and psychiatric disorders. It is increasingly accepted that alterations in early brain growth and development, that results in aberrant brain structure, function or connectivity, can negatively affect cognitive and behavioural outcomes. The potential causes for altered neurodevelopment are diverse and vast, and can include environmental insults, genetic influences, and early life nutrition and deficiencies.
The development of safe and non-invasive neuroimaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has opened the door to not only characterising early neurodevelopment, but also quantifying the effects of these environmental, genetic and nutritional factors. Here we overview the current understanding of the developing brain through the neuroimaging lens, and highlight the emerging studies specifically examining the influence of nutrition on the developing brain. Finally, we relate these observed neuroimaging findings to known cognitive and behavioral outcomes.