The structural basis of inter-individual differences in human behaviour and cognition

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011 Apr;12(4):231-42. doi: 10.1038/nrn3000. Epub 2011 Mar 16.


Inter-individual variability in perception, thought and action is frequently treated as a source of 'noise' in scientific investigations of the neural mechanisms that underlie these processes, and discarded by averaging data from a group of participants. However, recent MRI studies in the human brain show that inter-individual variability in a wide range of basic and higher cognitive functions - including perception, motor control, memory, aspects of consciousness and the ability to introspect - can be predicted from the local structure of grey and white matter as assessed by voxel-based morphometry or diffusion tensor imaging. We propose that inter-individual differences can be used as a source of information to link human behaviour and cognition to brain anatomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Awareness / physiology
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Perception / physiology
  • Personality
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Statistics as Topic