Response inhibition is associated with white matter microstructure in children

Kathrine Skak Madsen, William F C Baaré, Martin Vestergaard, Arnold Skimminge, Lisser Rye Ejersbo, Thomas Z Ramsøy, Christian Gerlach, Per Akeson, Olaf B Paulson, Terry L Jernigan
Neuropsychologia 2010, 48 (4): 854-62
Cognitive control of thoughts, actions and emotions is important for normal behaviour and the development of such control continues throughout childhood and adolescence. Several lines of evidence suggest that response inhibition is primarily mediated by a right-lateralized network involving inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), presupplementary motor cortex (preSMA), and subthalamic nucleus. Though the brain's fibre tracts are known to develop during childhood, little is known about how fibre tract development within this network relates to developing behavioural control. Here we examined the relationship between response inhibition, as measured with the stop-signal task, and indices of regional white matter microstructure in typically-developing children. We hypothesized that better response inhibition performance would be associated with higher fractional anisotropy (FA) in fibre tracts within right IFG and preSMA after controlling for age. Mean FA and diffusivity values were extracted from right and left IFG and preSMA. As hypothesized, faster response inhibition was significantly associated with higher FA and lower perpendicular diffusivity in both the right IFG and the right preSMA, possibly reflecting faster speed of neural conduction within more densely packed or better myelinated fibre tracts. Moreover, both of these effects remained significant after controlling for age and whole brain estimates of these DTI parameters. Interestingly, right IFG and preSMA FA contributed additively to the prediction of performance variability. Observed associations may be related to variation in phase of maturation, to activity-dependent alterations in the network subserving response inhibition, or to stable individual differences in underlying neural system connectivity.

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