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While development and aging of the cerebral cortex show a similar topographic organization and are mainly governed by the same genes, it is unclear whether the same is true for subcortical structures, which follow fundamentally different ontogenetic and phylogenetic principles than the cerebral cortex. To test the hypothesis that genetically governed neurodevelopmental processes can be traced in subcortical structures throughout life, we analyzed a longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging dataset (n = 974, age 4-89 years), identifying five clusters of longitudinal change in development. With some exceptions, these clusters followed placement along the cranial axis in embryonic brain development, suggesting continuity in the pattern of change from prenatal stages. Developmental change patterns were conserved through the lifespan and predicted general cognitive function in an age-invariant manner. The results were replicated in longitudinal data from the Lifebrain consortium (n = 756, age 19-83 years). Genetic contributions to longitudinal brain changes were calculated from the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (n = 331 male twins, age 51-60 years), revealing that distinct sets of genes tended to govern change for each developmental cluster. This finding was confirmed with single nucleotide polymorphisms and cross-sectional MRI data from the UK Biobank (n = 20,588, age 40-69), demonstrating significantly higher co-heritability among structures belonging to the same developmental clusters. Together, these results suggest that coordination of subcortical change adheres to fundamental principles of lifespan continuity, genetic organization and age-invariant relationships to cognitive function. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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