Individual differences in verbal abilities associated with regional blurring of the left gray and white matter boundary

J Neurosci. 2011 Oct 26;31(43):15257-63. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3039-11.2011.


Blurring of the cortical gray and white matter border on MRI is associated with normal aging, pathological aging, and the presence of focal cortical dysplasia. However, it remains unclear whether normal variations in signal intensity contrast at the gray and white matter junction reflect the functional integrity of subjacent tissue. This study explores the relationship between verbal abilities and gray and white matter contrast (GWC) in healthy human adults. Participants were scanned at 3 T MRI and administered standardized measures of verbal expression and verbal working memory. GWC was estimated by calculating the non-normalized T1 image intensity contrast above and below the cortical gray/white matter interface. Spherical averaging and whole-brain correlational analyses were performed. Sulcal regions exhibited higher contrast compared to gyral regions. We found a strongly lateralized and regionally specific profile with reduced verbal expression abilities associated with blurring in left hemisphere inferior frontal cortex and temporal pole. Reduced verbal working memory was associated with blurring in widespread left frontal and temporal cortices. Such lateralized and focal results provide support for GWC as a measure of regional functional integrity and highlight its potential role in probing the neuroanatomical substrates of cognition in healthy and diseased populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Individuality*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology*
  • Young Adult