Table_1_Neuroanatomical Correlates of the Unity and Diversity Model of Executive Function in Young Adults.DOCX (138.38 kB)
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Table_1_Neuroanatomical Correlates of the Unity and Diversity Model of Executive Function in Young Adults.DOCX

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posted on 20.07.2018, 04:10 authored by Harry R. Smolker, Naomi P. Friedman, John K. Hewitt, Marie T. Banich

Understanding the neuroanatomical correlates of individual differences in executive function (EF) is integral to a complete characterization of the neural systems supporting cognition. While studies have investigated EF-neuroanatomy relationships in adults, these studies often include samples with wide variation in age, which may mask relationships between neuroanatomy and EF specific to certain neurodevelopmental time points, and such studies often use unreliable single task measures of EF. Here we address both issues. First, we focused on a specific age at which the majority of neurodevelopmental changes are complete but at which age-related atrophy is not likely (N = 251; mean age of 28.71 years, SD = 0.57). Second, we assessed EF through multiple tasks, deriving three factors scores guided by the unity/diversity model of EF, which posits a common EF factor that influences all EF tasks, as well as an updating-specific and shifting-specific factor. We found that better common EF was associated with greater volume and surface area of regions in right middle frontal gyrus/frontal pole, right inferior temporal gyrus, as well as fractional anisotropy in portions of the right superior longitudinal fasciculus (rSLF) and the left anterior thalamic radiation. Better updating-specific ability was associated with greater cortical thickness of a cluster in left cuneus/precuneus, and reduced cortical thickness in regions of right superior frontal gyrus and right middle/superior temporal gyrus, but no aspects of white matter diffusion. In contrast, better shifting-specific ability was not associated with gray matter characteristics, but rather was associated with increased mean diffusivity and reduced radial diffusivity throughout much of the brain and reduced axial diffusivity in distinct clusters of the left superior longitudinal fasciculus, the corpus callosum, and the right optic radiation. These results demonstrate that associations between individual differences in EF ability and regional neuroanatomical properties occur not only within classic brain networks thought to support EF, but also in a variety of other regions and white matter tracts. These relationships appear to differ from observations made in emerging adults (Smolker et al., 2015), which might indicate that the brain systems associated with EF continue to experience behaviorally relevant maturational process beyond the early 20s.