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Alex Mitko, Joseph DeGutis, Michael Esterman; Patterns of cortical microstructure predict visual sustained attention ability. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):694. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.694.
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Several studies have examined how individual differences in sustained attention relate to functional brain measures (e.g., functional connectivity), but far fewer studies relate sustained attention ability, or cognition in general, to individual differences in cortical microstructure. FMRI meta-analyses and patient work have highlighted that fronto-parietal regions, lateralized to the right hemisphere, are critical to sustained attention, though recent work implicates a broader expanse of brain regions (e.g., Rosenberg et al, 2015). The current study sought to determine if and where variation in cortical thickness is significantly associated with sustained attention performance. Further, using multivariate modeling, we examined whether regional patterns of cortical thickness could predict individual differences in performance. Neurologically-intact adult participants (n=118) performed an 8-minute continuous performance go/no-go sustained attention task (gradCPT) after acquiring two high-resolution structural MRI scans. A whole brain analysis, controlling for age differences, revealed that thicker occipital and temporal regions correlated with better sustained attention ability (d-prime and RT variability). On the other hand, variation in sustained attention strategy (response criterion and mean RT) was only weakly related to cortical thickness. Similarly, multivariate classification analyses using whole-brain patterns of thickness were able to reliably predict individual differences in gradCPT ability, but not strategy. Further analyses revealed that right hemisphere regions were most important for predicting performance, and that performance was also related to relative thickness differences between homologous regions of the right and left hemisphere. While these results partially coincide with fMRI studies (e.g., right lateralization), they do not implicate microstructure in the classic attention networks (e.g., dorsal attention network) as being most critical for explaining individual differences. Instead this indicates that the microstructure in areas typically associated with vision and memory may contribute to sustained attention, and more broadly that structural variation may complement functional variation in the study of individual differences in cognition.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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