White matter microstructure is associated with cognitive control in children

Laura Chaddock-Heyman, Kirk I. Erickson, Michelle W. Voss, John P. Powers, Anya M. Knecht, Matthew B. Pontifex, Eric S. Drollette, R. Davis Moore, Lauren B. Raine, Mark R. Scudder, Charles H. Hillman, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cognitive control, which involves the ability to pay attention and suppress interference, is important for learning and achievement during childhood. The white matter tracts related to control during childhood are not well known. We examined the relationship between white matter microstructure and cognitive control in 61 children aged 7-9 years using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). This technique enables an in vivo characterization of microstructural properties of white matter based on properties of diffusion. Such properties include fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity, measures thought to reflect specific biological properties of white matter integrity. Our results suggest that children with higher estimates of white matter integrity in the corona radiata, superior longitudinal fasciculus, posterior thalamic radiation, and cerebral peduncle were more accurate during incongruent (>. >. <. >. >, <. <. >. <. <) and neutral (-->--, --<--) trials of a task of cognitive control. Importantly, less interference during the task (i.e., incongruent and neutral difference scores) was associated with greater white matter microstructure in the posterior thalamic radiation and cerebral peduncle. Fiber tracts in a frontal-parietal-striatal-motor circuit seem to play a role in cognitive control in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-115
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Child
  • Cognition
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Flanker
  • MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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