Using whole-brain diffusion tensor analysis to evaluate white matter structural correlates of delayed visuospatial memory and one-week motor skill retention in nondemented older adults: A preliminary study

PLoS One. 2022 Sep 22;17(9):e0274955. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0274955. eCollection 2022.


Skill retention is important for motor rehabilitation outcomes. Recent work has demonstrated that delayed visuospatial memory performance may predict motor skill retention in older and neuropathological populations. White matter integrity between parietal and frontal cortices may explain variance in upper-extremity motor learning tasks and visuospatial processes. We performed a whole-brain analysis to determine the white matter correlates of delayed visuospatial memory and one-week motor skill retention in nondemented older adults. We hypothesized that better frontoparietal tract integrity would be positively related to better behavioral performance. Nineteen participants (age>58) completed diffusion-weighted imaging, then a clinical test of delayed visuospatial memory and 50 training trials of an upper-extremity motor task; participants were retested on the motor task one week later. Principal component analysis was used to create a composite score for each participant's behavioral data, i.e. shared variance between delayed visuospatial memory and motor skill retention, which was then entered into a voxel-based regression analysis. Behavioral results demonstrated that participants learned and retained their skill level after a week of no practice, and their delayed visuospatial memory score was positively related to the extent of skill retention. Consistent with previous work, neuroimaging results indicated that regions within bilateral anterior thalamic radiations, corticospinal tracts, and superior longitudinal fasciculi were related to better delayed visuospatial memory and skill retention. Results of this study suggest that the simple act of testing for specific cognitive impairments prior to therapy may identify older adults who will receive little to no benefit from the motor rehabilitation regimen, and that these neural regions may be potential targets for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter* / pathology