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Multivariate Lesion-Behavior Mapping of General Cognitive Ability and Its Psychometric Constituents

Bowren, Mark, Jr. and Adolphs, Ralph and Bruss, Joel and Manzel, Kenneth and Corbetta, Maurizio and Tranel, Daniel and Boes, Aaron D. (2020) Multivariate Lesion-Behavior Mapping of General Cognitive Ability and Its Psychometric Constituents. Journal of Neuroscience, 40 (46). pp. 8924-8937. ISSN 0270-6474. PMCID PMC7659456.

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General cognitive ability, or general intelligence (g), is central to cognitive science, yet the processes that constitute it remain unknown, in good part because most prior work has relied on correlational methods. Large-scale behavioral and neuroanatomical data from neurologic patients with focal brain lesions can be leveraged to advance our understanding of the key mechanisms of g, as this approach allows inference on the independence of cognitive processes along with elucidation of their respective neuroanatomical substrates. We analyzed behavioral and neuroanatomical data from 402 humans (212 males; 190 females) with chronic, focal brain lesions. Structural equation models (SEMs) demonstrated a psychometric isomorphism between g and working memory in our sample (which we refer to as g/Gwm), but not between g and other cognitive abilities. Multivariate lesion-behavior mapping analyses indicated that g and working memory localize most critically to a site of converging white matter tracts deep to the left temporo-parietal junction. Tractography analyses demonstrated that the regions in the lesion-behavior map of g/Gwm were primarily associated with the arcuate fasciculus. The anatomic findings were validated in an independent cohort of acute stroke patients (n = 101) using model-based predictions of cognitive deficits generated from the Iowa cohort lesion-behavior maps. The neuroanatomical localization of g/Gwm provided the strongest prediction of observed g in the new cohort (r = 0.42, p < 0.001), supporting the anatomic specificity of our findings. These results provide converging behavioral and anatomic evidence that working memory is a key mechanism contributing to domain-general cognition.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Bowren, Mark, Jr.0000-0003-3304-6921
Adolphs, Ralph0000-0002-8053-9692
Bruss, Joel0000-0003-2415-1658
Tranel, Daniel0000-0002-1338-1389
Additional Information:© 2020 the authors. Received June 4, 2020; revised Sep. 15, 2020; accepted Oct. 1, 2020. This study was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Grant T32GM108540, the National Institutes of Mental Health Grants 1 P50 MH094258 and 1 R21 MH120441-01, the Kiwanis Foundation, FC-Neuro University of Padua, National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke Grants 1 R01 NS114405-01 and NS095741, Flagship of the European Research Area Joint Transnational Call, Neuro-DiP: Progetto Dipartimenti di Eccellenza Italian Ministry of Research (MIUR), and CARIPARO Foundation Padova. This work was conducted on an MRI instrument funded by National Institutes of Health Grant 1S10OD025025-01. Author contributions: M.B., R.A., M.C., D.T., and A.D.B. designed research; M.B., J.B., and K.M. performed research; M.B. and J.B. analyzed data; M.B. wrote the paper. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NIH Predoctoral FellowshipT32GM108540
NIH1 P50 MH094258
NIH1 R21 MH120441-01
Kiwanis FoundationUNSPECIFIED
University of PaduaUNSPECIFIED
NIH1 R01 NS114405-01
Flagship of the European Research Area Joint Transnational CallUNSPECIFIED
Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca (MIUR)UNSPECIFIED
Fondazione CariparoUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:brain networks; general cognitive ability; general intelligence; lesion method; psychometrics; working memory
Issue or Number:46
PubMed Central ID:PMC7659456
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201012-163632369
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Multivariate Lesion-Behavior Mapping of General Cognitive Ability and Its Psychometric Constituents. Mark Bowren, Ralph Adolphs, Joel Bruss, Kenneth Manzel, Maurizio Corbetta, Daniel Tranel, Aaron D. Boes. Journal of Neuroscience 11 November 2020, 40 (46) 8924-8937; DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1415-20.2020
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106007
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:13 Oct 2020 16:58
Last Modified:25 Nov 2020 21:00

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