Structural brain connectivity and cognitive ability differences: A multivariate distance matrix regression analysis.

Abstract

Neuroimaging research involves analyses of huge amounts of biological data that might or might not be related with cognition. This relationship is usually approached using univariate methods, and, therefore, correction methods are mandatory for reducing false positives. Nevertheless, the probability of false negatives is also increased. Multivariate frameworks have been proposed for helping to alleviate this balance. Here we apply multivariate distance matrix regression for the simultaneous analysis of biological and cognitive data, namely, structural connections among 82 brain regions and several latent factors estimating cognitive performance. We tested whether cognitive differences predict distances among individuals regarding their connectivity pattern. Beginning with 3,321 connections among regions, the 36 edges better predicted by the individuals' cognitive scores were selected. Cognitive scores were related to connectivity distances in both the full (3,321) and reduced (36) connectivity patterns. The selected edges connect regions distributed across the entire brain and the network defined by these edges supports high-order cognitive processes such as (a) (fluid) executive control, (b) (crystallized) recognition, learning, and language processing, and (c) visuospatial processing. This multivariate study suggests that one widespread, but limited number, of regions in the human brain, supports high-level cognitive ability differences. Hum Brain Mapp 38:803-816, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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