Subcortical regional morphology correlates with fluid and spatial intelligence.
Human brain mapping
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Neuroimaging studies have revealed associations between intelligence and brain morphology. However, researchers have focused primarily on the anatomical features of the cerebral cortex, whereas subcortical structures, such as the basal ganglia (BG), have often been neglected despite extensive functional evidence on their relation with higher-order cognition. Here we performed shape analyses to understand how individual differences in BG local morphology account for variability in cognitive performance. Structural MRI was acquired in 104 young adults (45 men, 59 women, mean age = 19.83, SD = 1.64), and the outer surface of striatal structures (caudate, nucleus accumbens, and putamen), globus pallidus, and thalamus was estimated for each subject and hemisphere. Further, nine cognitive tests were used to measure fluid (Gf), crystallized (Gc), and spatial intelligence (Gv). Latent scores for these factors were computed by means of confirmatory factor analysis and regressed vertex-wise against subcortical shape (local displacements of vertex position), controlling for age, sex, and adjusted for brain size. Significant results (FDR < 5%) were found for Gf and Gv, but not Gc, for the right striatal structures and thalamus. The main results show a relative enlargement of the rostral putamen, which is functionally connected to the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and other intelligence-related prefrontal areas.