Breadth and Age-Dependency of Relations between Cortical Thickness and Cognition

Salthouse, Timothy; Habeck, Christian G.; Razlighi, Qolamreza R.; Barulli, Daniel James; Gazes, Yunglin; Stern, Yaakov

Recent advances in neuroimaging have identified a large number of neural measures that could be involved in age-related declines in cognitive functioning. A popular method of investigating neural-cognition relations has been to determine the brain regions in which a particular neural measure is associated with the level of specific cognitive measures. Although this procedure has been informative, it ignores the strong interrelations that typically exist among the measures in each modality. An alternative approach involves investigating the number and identity of distinct dimensions within the set of neural measures and within the set of cognitive measures before examining relations between the 2 types of measures. The procedure is illustrated with data from 297 adults between 20 and 79 years of age with cortical thickness in different brain regions as the neural measures and performance on 12 cognitive tests as the cognitive measures. The results revealed that most of the relations between cortical thickness and cognition occurred at a general level corresponding to variance shared among different brain regions and among different cognitive measures. In addition, the strength of the thickness-cognition relation was substantially reduced after controlling the variation in age, which suggests that at least some of the thickness-cognition relations in age-heterogeneous samples may be attributable to the influence of age on each type of measure.


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February 22, 2018