White matter volume predicts reaction time instability

  • Walhovd K
  • Fjell A
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Abstract

Information processing speed is a central concept in cognitive psychology and neuropsychology. Previous studies have mostly focused on mean reaction time (RT), and largely ignored intra-individual differences (the standard deviation of the RT: sdRT). Still, intra-individual inconsistency across trials has been shown to correlate with age, neurological disorders, intelligence, and performance on cognitive tests. However, sdRT has not been correlated with neuroanatomical variables. Such knowledge is important to the understanding of the neurobiological foundation for intra-individual variability. In the present study, white matter (WM) and cortical gray matter (GM) volume obtained from the average of two MR scans of 71 healthy participants (aged 20-88 years) were correlated with sdRT and mean RT obtained from a 3-stimulus visual oddball task. Negative correlations were hypothesized between sdRT and WM and between mean RT and cortical GM volume. These hypotheses were confirmed. The correlation between sdRT and WM volume was significant also independently of effects of age, gender, and mean RT, while there was a trend towards a significant correlation (p = .085) between cortical GM volume and mean RT independently of age. A path model was constructed, showing that age and sdRT gave independent contributions to the variance in performance intelligence, and that WM volume predicted performance score through the influence of sdRT. Further, sdRT was a stronger predictor of performance intelligence than mean RT. It is concluded that sdRT and mean RT may have different neuroanatomical correlates, and that sdRT is related to WM characteristics of the brain. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cognitive function
  • Cortical gray matter
  • MRI
  • Reaction time
  • White matter

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