Cortical Morphometry is Associated with Neuropsychological Function in Healthy 8-Year-Old Children

J Neuroimaging. 2020 Nov;30(6):833-842. doi: 10.1111/jon.12754. Epub 2020 Jul 8.


Background and purpose: Cortical development is essential for children's neurocognition. In this study, we evaluated how variations in cortical morphometry in normal children are associated with outcome differences in multiple domains of cognition.

Methods: Eight-year-old children were recruited for a brain MRI followed by a battery of neuropsychological assessments. The MRI scan included 3D-T1-weighted imaging for cortical morphometry in 34 regions defined by the Desikan atlas. The neuropsychological assessments included the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS) for IQ, Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF-4) for language, Children's Memory Scale (CMS) for memory, Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT-4) for academic skills, and Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) for executive functions. The relationships between MRI measured cortical features, including gray matter volume, surface area, and cortical thickness for different brain regions and neuropsychological test scores, were evaluated using partial correlation analyses controlled for age and sex.

Results: RIAS/CELF-4/CMS/WRAT-4/BRIEF scores showed significant correlations (R: [.38-.44], P: [.005-.046]) with gray matter volume, surface area, or cortical thickness in multiple brain regions. Gray matter volume in the medial orbitofrontal/ventromedial prefrontal cortex appeared to be a sensitive marker for overall neurocognition as it significantly correlated with IQ, language, memory, and executive function behaviors. The superior temporal gyrus and banks of superior temporal sulcus appeared to be most sensitive to reflect overall language function as their cortical features consistently correlated with language-related test scores.

Conclusions: Cortical morphometry significantly correlated with neuropsychological function in healthy children; certain regions/features may serve as sensitive imaging markers.

Keywords: Gray matter volume; behavior; cognition; cortical surface area; cortical thickness; neuropsychological function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests