Is bigger always better? The importance of cortical configuration with respect to cognitive ability.
ABSTRACT: General cognitive ability (GCA) has substantial explanatory power for behavioral and health outcomes, but its cortical substrate is still not fully established. GCA is highly polygenic and research to date strongly suggests that its cortical substrate is highly polyregional. We show in map-based and region-of-interest-based analyses of adult twins that a complex cortical configuration underlies GCA. Having relatively greater surface area in evolutionary and developmentally high-expanded prefrontal, lateral temporal, and inferior parietal regions is positively correlated with GCA, whereas relatively greater surface area in low-expanded occipital, medial temporal, and motor cortices is negatively correlated with GCA. Essentially the opposite pattern holds for relative cortical thickness. The phenotypic positive-to-negative gradients in our cortical-GCA association maps were largely driven by a similar pattern of genetic associations. The patterns are consistent with regional cortical stretching whereby relatively greater surface area is related to relatively thinner cortex in high-expanded regions. Thus, the typical "bigger is better" view does not adequately capture cortical-GCA associations. Rather, cognitive ability is influenced by complex configurations of cortical development patterns that are strongly influenced by genetic factors. Optimal cognitive ability appears to be driven both by the absolute size and the polyregional configuration of the entire cortex rather than by small, circumscribed regions.
Project description:How and when education improves cognitive capacity is an issue of profound societal importance. Education and later-life education-related factors, such as occupational complexity and engagement in cognitive-intellectual activities, are frequently considered indices of cognitive reserve, but whether their effects are truly causal remains unclear. In this study, after accounting for general cognitive ability (GCA) at an average age of 20 y, additional education, occupational complexity, or engagement in cognitive-intellectual activities accounted for little variance in late midlife cognitive functioning in men age 56-66 (n = 1009). Age 20 GCA accounted for 40% of variance in the same measure in late midlife and approximately 10% of variance in each of seven cognitive domains. The other factors each accounted for <1% of the variance in cognitive outcomes. The impact of these other factors likely reflects reverse causation-namely, downstream effects of early adult GCA. Supporting that idea, age 20 GCA, but not education, was associated with late midlife cortical surface area (n = 367). In our view, the most parsimonious explanation of our results, a meta-analysis of the impact of education, and epidemiologic studies of the Flynn effect is that intellectual capacity gains due to education plateau in late adolescence/early adulthood. Longitudinal studies with multiple cognitive assessments before completion of education would be needed to confirm this speculation. If cognitive gains reach an asymptote by early adulthood, then strengthening cognitive reserve and reducing later-life cognitive decline and dementia risk may really begin with improving educational quality and access in childhood and adolescence.
Project description:Height and general cognitive ability are positively associated, but the underlying mechanisms of this relationship are not well understood. Both height and general cognitive ability are positively associated with brain size. Still, the neural substrate of the height-cognitive ability association is unclear. We used a sample of 515 middle-aged male twins with structural magnetic resonance imaging data to investigate whether the association between height and cognitive ability is mediated by cortical size. In addition to cortical volume, we used genetically, ontogenetically and phylogenetically distinct cortical metrics of total cortical surface area and mean cortical thickness. Height was positively associated with general cognitive ability and total cortical volume and cortical surface area, but not with mean cortical thickness. Mediation models indicated that the well-replicated height-general cognitive ability association is accounted for by individual differences in total cortical volume and cortical surface area (highly heritable metrics related to global brain size), and that the genetic association between cortical surface area and general cognitive ability underlies the phenotypic height-general cognitive ability relationship.
Project description:Regional cortical brain volume is the product of surface area and thickness. These measures exhibit partially distinct trajectories of change across the brain's cortex in older age, but it is unclear which cortical characteristics at which loci are sensitive to cognitive ageing differences. We examine associations between change in intelligence from age 11 to 73 years and regional cortical volume, surface area, and thickness measured at age 73 years in 568 community-dwelling older adults, all born in 1936. A relative positive change in intelligence from 11 to 73 was associated with larger volume and surface area in selective frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital regions (r < 0.180, FDR-corrected q < 0.05). There were no significant associations between cognitive ageing and a thinner cortex for any region. Interestingly, thickness and surface area were phenotypically independent across bilateral lateral temporal loci, whose surface area was significantly related to change in intelligence. These findings suggest that associations between regional cortical volume and cognitive ageing differences are predominantly driven by surface area rather than thickness among healthy older adults. Regional brain surface area has been relatively underexplored, and is a potentially informative biomarker for identifying determinants of cognitive ageing differences.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Cognitive and structural brain abnormalities range from mild to severe in psychosis. The relationships of specific cognitive functions to specific brain structures across the psychosis spectrum is less certain. METHODS:Participants (n = 678) with bipolar, schizoaffective, or schizophrenia psychoses and healthy control subjects were recruited via the Bipolar-Schizophrenia Network for Intermediate Phenotypes. The Schizo-Bipolar Scale was used to create a psychosis continuum (from purely affective to purely nonaffective). Canonical correlation between 14 cognitive measures and structural brain measures (gray matter volume, cortical thickness, cortical surface area, and local gyrification indices) for 68 neocortical regions yielded constructs that defined shared cognition-brain structure relationships. Canonical discriminant analysis was used to integrate these constructs and efficiently summarize cognition-brain structure relationships across the psychosis continuum. RESULTS:General cognition was associated with larger gray matter volumes and thicker cortices but smaller cortical surface area in frontoparietal regions. Working memory was associated with larger volume and surface area in frontotemporal regions. Faster response speed was associated with thicker frontal cortices. Constructs that captured general cognitive ability and working memory and their relationship to cortical volumes primarily defined an ordered psychosis spectrum (purely affective, least abnormal through purely nonaffective, and most abnormal). A construct that captured general cognitive ability and its relationship to cortical surface area differentiated purely affective cases from other groups. CONCLUSIONS:General cognition and working memory with cortical volume deviations characterized more nonaffective psychoses. Alternatively, affective psychosis cases with general cognitive deficits had deviations in cortical surface area, perhaps accounting for heterogeneous findings across previous studies.
Project description:Cortical structure has been consistently related to cognitive abilities in children and adults, yet we know little about how the cortex develops to support emergent cognition in infancy and toddlerhood when cortical thickness (CT) and surface area (SA) are maturing rapidly. In this report, we assessed how regional and global measures of CT and SA in a sample (N?=?487) of healthy neonates, 1-year-olds, and 2-year-olds related to motor, language, visual reception, and general cognitive ability. We report novel findings that thicker cortices at ages 1 and 2 and larger SA at birth, age 1, and age 2 confer a cognitive advantage in infancy and toddlerhood. While several expected brain-cognition relationships were observed, overlapping cortical regions were also implicated across cognitive domains, suggesting that infancy marks a period of plasticity and refinement in cortical structure to support burgeoning motor, language, and cognitive abilities. CT may be a particularly important morphological indicator of ability, but its impact on cognition is relatively weak when compared with gestational age and maternal education. Findings suggest that prenatal and early postnatal cortical developments are important for cognition in infants and toddlers but should be considered in relation to other child and demographic factors.
Project description:Fully characterizing age differences in the brain is a key task for combating aging-related cognitive decline. Using propensity score matching on 2 independent, narrow-age cohorts, we used data on childhood cognitive ability, socioeconomic background, and intracranial volume to match participants at mean age of 92 years (n = 42) to very similar participants at mean age of 73 years (n = 126). Examining a variety of global and regional structural neuroimaging variables, there were large differences in gray and white matter volumes, cortical surface area, cortical thickness, and white matter hyperintensity volume and spatial extent. In a mediation analysis, the total volume of white matter hyperintensities and total cortical surface area jointly mediated 24.9% of the relation between age and general cognitive ability (tissue volumes and cortical thickness were not significant mediators in this analysis). These findings provide an unusual and valuable perspective on neurostructural aging, in which brains from the 8th and 10th decades of life differ widely despite the same cognitive, socioeconomic, and brain-volumetric starting points.
Project description:Verbal learning (VL) and fluency (VF) are prominent cognitive deficits in psychosis, of which the precise neuroanatomical contributions are not fully understood. We investigated the arcuate fasciculus (AF) and its associated cortical regions to identify structural abnormalities contributing to these verbal impairments in early stages of psychotic illness.Twenty-six individuals with recent-onset psychosis and 27 healthy controls underwent cognitive testing (MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery) and structural/diffusion-weighted MRI. Bilaterally, AF anisotropy and cortical thickness, surface area and volume of seven cortical regions were investigated in relation to VL and VF performance in both groups.Reduced right superior temporal gyrus surface area and volume related to better VF in controls. In psychosis, greater right pars opercularis volume and reduced left lateralization of this region related to better VL, while greater right long AF fractional anisotropy and right pars orbitalis volume related to better VF, these findings not present in controls. Psychosis had reduced right pars orbitalis thickness compared to controls.Anatomical substrates for normal processing of VL and VF appear altered in recent-onset psychosis. A possible aberrant role of the right hemisphere arcuate fasciculus and fronto-temporal cortical regions in psychosis may contribute to deficits in VL and VF.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Neighborhood deprivation adversely effects neurodevelopment and cognitive function; however, mechanisms remain unexplored. Neighborhood deprivation could be particularly impactful in late childhood/early adolescence, in neural regions with protracted developmental trajectories, e.g., prefrontal cortex (PFC). METHODS:The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study recruited 10,205 youth. Geocoded residential history was used to extract individual neighborhood characteristics. A general cognitive ability index and MRI scans were completed. Associations with neurocognition were examined. The relation of PFC surface area and cortical thickness to neighborhood deprivation was tested. PFC subregions and asymmetry, with putative differential environmental susceptibility during key developmental periods, were explored. Analyses tested PFC area as a possible mediating mechanism. RESULTS:Neighborhood deprivation predicted neurocognitive performance (? ?= ?-0.11), even after accounting for parental education and household income (? ?= ?-0.07). Higher neighborhood deprivation related to greater overall PFC surface area (?p2 ?= ?0.003), and differences in leftward asymmetry were observed for area (?p2 ?= ?0.001), and thickness (?p2 ?= ?0.003). Subregion analyses highlighted differences among critical areas that are actively developing in late childhood/early adolescence and are essential to modulating high order cognitive function. These included orbitofrontal, superior frontal, rostral middle frontal, and frontal pole regions (Cohen's d ?= ?0.03-0.09). PFC surface area partially mediated the relation between neighborhood deprivation and neurocognition. DISCUSSION:Neighborhood deprivation related to cognitive function (a foundational skill tied to a range of lifetime outcomes) and PFC morphology, with evidence found for partial mediation of PFC on neurocognitive function. Results inform public health conceptualizations of development and environmental vulnerability.
Project description:Inflammation is linked to cognitive decline in midlife, but the neural basis for this link is unclear. One possibility is that inflammation associates with adverse changes in brain morphology, which accelerates cognitive aging and later dementia risk. Clear evidence is lacking, however, regarding whether inflammation relates to cognition in midlife via changes in brain morphology. Accordingly, the current study examines whether associations of inflammation with cognitive function are mediated by variation in cortical gray matter volume among midlife adults.Plasma levels of interleukin (IL)-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP), relatively stable markers of peripheral systemic inflammation, were assessed in 408 community volunteers aged 30-54 years. All participants underwent structural neuroimaging to assess global and regional brain morphology and completed neuropsychological tests sensitive to early changes in cognitive function. Measurements of brain morphology (regional tissue volumes and cortical thickness and surface area) were derived using Freesurfer.Higher peripheral inflammation was associated with poorer spatial reasoning, short term memory, verbal proficiency, learning and memory, and executive function, as well as lower cortical gray and white matter volumes, hippocampal volume and cortical surface area. Mediation models with age, sex and intracranial volume as covariates showed cortical gray matter volume to partially mediate the association of inflammation with cognitive performance. Exploratory analyses of body mass suggested that adiposity may be a source of the inflammation linking brain morphology to cognition.Inflammation and adiposity might relate to cognitive decline via influences on brain morphology.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder with cognitive, motor, and emotional symptoms. The thalamus and basal ganglia form circuits with the cortex supporting all three of these behavioral domains. Abnormalities in the structure of subcortical regions may suggest atypical development of these networks, with implications for understanding the neural basis of ASD symptoms. Findings from previous volumetric studies have been inconsistent. Here, using advanced surface-based methodology, we investigated localized differences in shape and surface area in the basal ganglia and thalamus in ASD, using T1-weighted anatomical images from the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (373 male participants aged 7-35 years with ASD and 384 typically developing). We modeled effects of diagnosis, age, and their interaction on volume, shape, and surface area. In participants with ASD, we found expanded surface area in the right posterior thalamus corresponding to the pulvinar nucleus, and a more concave shape in the left mediodorsal nucleus. The shape of both caudal putamen and pallidum showed a relatively steeper increase in concavity with age in ASD. Within ASD participants, restricted, repetitive behaviors were positively associated with surface area in bilateral globus pallidus. We found no differences in overall volume, suggesting that surface-based approaches have greater sensitivity to detect localized differences in subcortical structure. This work adds to a growing body of literature implicating corticobasal ganglia-thalamic circuits in the pathophysiology of ASD. These circuits subserve a range of cognitive, emotional, and motor functions, and may have a broad role in the complex symptom profile in ASD.