White matter connections of high-level visual areas predict cytoarchitecture better than category-selectivity in childhood, but not adulthood

Cereb Cortex. 2022 Jun 8;bhac221. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhac221. Online ahead of print.


Ventral temporal cortex (VTC) consists of high-level visual regions that are arranged in consistent anatomical locations across individuals. This consistency has led to several hypotheses about the factors that constrain the functional organization of VTC. A prevailing theory is that white matter connections influence the organization of VTC, however, the nature of this constraint is unclear. Here, we test 2 hypotheses: (1) white matter tracts are specific for each category or (2) white matter tracts are specific to cytoarchitectonic areas of VTC. To test these hypotheses, we used diffusion magnetic resonance imaging to identify white matter tracts and functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify category-selective regions in VTC in children and adults. We find that in childhood, white matter connections are linked to cytoarchitecture rather than category-selectivity. In adulthood, however, white matter connections are linked to both cytoarchitecture and category-selectivity. These results suggest a rethinking of the view that category-selective regions in VTC have category-specific white matter connections early in development. Instead, these findings suggest that the neural hardware underlying the processing of categorical stimuli may be more domain-general than previously thought, particularly in childhood.

Keywords: development; fusiform face area; ventral stream; visual word form area.