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Sustained attention is associated with right superior longitudinal fasciculus and superior parietal white matter microstructure in children

Authors

  • Brith Klarborg,

    1. Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark
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    • Brith Klarborg and Kathrine Skak Madsen have contributed equally to this work.

  • Kathrine Skak Madsen,

    1. Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark
    2. Center for Integrated Molecular Brain Imaging, Copenhagen, Denmark
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    • Brith Klarborg and Kathrine Skak Madsen have contributed equally to this work.

  • Martin Vestergaard,

    1. Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark
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  • Arnold Skimminge,

    1. Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark
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  • Terry L. Jernigan,

    1. Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark
    2. Center for Integrated Molecular Brain Imaging, Copenhagen, Denmark
    3. Center for Human Development, University of California, San Diego, California
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  • William F.C. Baaré

    Corresponding author
    1. Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark
    2. Center for Integrated Molecular Brain Imaging, Copenhagen, Denmark
    • Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Kettegaard Allé 30, DK-2650 Hvidovre, Denmark. E-mail: wimb@drcmr.dk

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Abstract

Sustained attention develops during childhood and has been linked to the right fronto-parietal cortices in functional imaging studies; however, less is known about its relation to white matter (WM) characteristics. Here we investigated whether the microstructure of the WM underlying and connecting the right fronto-parietal cortices was associated with sustained attention performance in a group of 76 typically developing children aged 7–13 years. Sustained attention was assessed using a rapid visual information processing paradigm. The two behavioral measures of interest were the sensitivity index d′ and the coefficient of variation in reaction times (RTCV). Diffusion-weighted imaging was performed. Mean fractional anisotropy (FA) was extracted from the WM underlying right dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPFC) and parietal cortex (PC), and the right superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), as well as equivalent anatomical regions-of-interest (ROIs) in the left hemisphere and mean global WM FA. When analyzed collectively, right hemisphere ROIs FA was significantly associated with d′ independently of age. Follow-up analyses revealed that only FA of right SLF and the superior part of the right PC contributed significantly to this association. RTCV was significantly associated with right superior PC FA, but not with right SLF FA. Observed associations remained significant after controlling for FA of equivalent left hemisphere ROIs or global mean FA. In conclusion, better sustained attention performance was associated with higher FA of WM in regions connecting right frontal and parietal cortices. Further studies are needed to clarify to which extent these associations are driven by maturational processes, stable characteristics and/or experience. Hum Brain Mapp 34:3216–3232, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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