White matter microstructure correlates of mathematical giftedness and intelligence quotient

Francisco J Navas-Sánchez, Yasser Alemán-Gómez, Javier Sánchez-Gonzalez, Juan A Guzmán-De-Villoria, Carolina Franco, Olalla Robles, Celso Arango, Manuel Desco
Human Brain Mapping 2014, 35 (6): 2619-31
Recent functional neuroimaging studies have shown differences in brain activation between mathematically gifted adolescents and controls. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between mathematical giftedness, intelligent quotient (IQ), and the microstructure of white matter tracts in a sample composed of math-gifted adolescents and aged-matched controls. Math-gifted subjects were selected through a national program based on detecting enhanced visuospatial abilities and creative thinking. We used diffusion tensor imaging to assess white matter microstructure in neuroanatomical connectivity. The processing included voxel-wise and region of interest-based analyses of the fractional anisotropy (FA), a parameter which is purportedly related to white matter microstructure. In a whole-sample analysis, IQ showed a significant positive correlation with FA, mainly in the corpus callosum, supporting the idea that efficient information transfer between hemispheres is crucial for higher intellectual capabilities. In addition, math-gifted adolescents showed increased FA (adjusted for IQ) in white matter tracts connecting frontal lobes with basal ganglia and parietal regions. The enhanced anatomical connectivity observed in the forceps minor and splenium may underlie the greater fluid reasoning, visuospatial working memory, and creative capabilities of these children.

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