Subcortical correlates of individual differences in aptitude

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 25;9(2):e89425. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089425. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

The study of individual differences encompasses broad constructs including intelligence, creativity, and personality. However, substantially less research is devoted to the study of specific aptitudes in spite of their importance to educational, occupational, and avocational success. We sought to determine subcortical brain structural correlates of several broad aptitudes including Math, Vocabulary, Foresight, Paper Folding, and Inductive Reasoning in a large (N = 107), healthy, young (age range = 16-29) cohort. Subcortical volumes were measured using an automated technique (FreeSurfer) across structures including bilateral caudate, putamen, globus pallidus, thalamus, nucleus accumbens, hippocampus, amygdala, and five equal regions of the corpus callosum. We found that performance on measures of each aptitude was predicted by different subcortical structures: Math--higher right nucleus accumbens volume; Vocabulary--higher left hippocampus volume; Paper Folding--higher right thalamus volume; Foresight--lower right thalamus and higher mid anterior corpus callosum volume; Inductive Reasoning--higher mid anterior corpus callosum volume. Our results support general findings, within the cognitive neurosciences, showing lateralization of structure-function relationships, as well as more specific relationships between individual structures (e.g., left hippocampus) and functions relevant to particular aptitudes (e.g., Vocabulary).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aptitude / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Funding provided by the Johnson O'Connor Research Support Corporation and The John Templeton Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.