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Neuroimage. 2011 Feb 14;54(4):3093-100. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.021. Epub 2010 Nov 13.

Beyond age and gender: relationships between cortical and subcortical brain volume and cognitive-motor abilities in school-age children.

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  • 1Department of Kinesiology & Neuroscience, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-2611, USA.


There is growing evidence that cognitive and motor functions are interrelated and may rely on the development of the same cortical and subcortical neural structures. However, no study to date has examined the relationships between brain volume, cognitive ability, and motor ability in typically developing children. The NIH MRI Study of Normal Brain Development consists of a large, longitudinal database of structural MRI and performance measures from a battery of neuropsychological assessments from typically developing children. This dataset provides a unique opportunity to examine relationships between the brain and cognitive-motor abilities. A secondary analysis was conducted on data from 172 children between the ages of 6 to 13 years with up to 2 measurement occasions (initial testing and 2-year follow-up). Linear mixed effects modeling was employed to account for age and gender effects on the development of specific cortical and subcortical volumes as well as behavioral performance measures of interest. Above and beyond the effects of age and gender, significant relationships were found between general cognitive ability (IQ) and the volume of subcortical brain structures (cerebellum and caudate) as well as spatial working memory and the putamen. In addition, IQ was found to be related to global and frontal gray matter volume as well as parietal gray and white matter. At the behavioral level, general cognitive ability was also found to be related to visuomotor ability (pegboard) and executive function (spatial working memory). These results support the notion that cognition and motor skills may be fundamentally interrelated at both the levels of behavior and brain structure.

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