Cereb Cortex. 2023 Jan 20:bhac538. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhac538. Online ahead of print.
Few tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) studies have investigated the relations between intelligence and white matter microstructure in healthy (young) adults, and those have yielded mixed observations, yet white matter is fundamental for efficient and accurate information transfer throughout the human brain. We used a multicenter approach to identify white matter regions that show replicable structure-function associations, employing data from 4 independent samples comprising over 2000 healthy participants. TBSS indicated 188 voxels exhibited significant positive associations between g factor scores and fractional anisotropy (FA) in all 4 data sets. Replicable voxels formed 3 clusters, located around the left-hemispheric forceps minor, superior longitudinal fasciculus, and cingulum-cingulate gyrus with extensions into their surrounding areas (anterior thalamic radiation, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus). Our results suggested that individual differences in general intelligence are robustly associated with white matter FA in specific fiber bundles distributed across the brain, consistent with the Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory of intelligence. Three possible reasons higher FA values might create links with higher g are faster information processing due to greater myelination, more direct information processing due to parallel, homogenous fiber orientation distributions, or more parallel information processing due to greater axon density.