Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Little Rock, Arkansas » Microbiome and Metabolism Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #353373

Title: White matter microstructure correlates with memory performance in healthy children: A diffusion tensor imaging study

item SAMARA, AMJAD - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item FENG, KAIYANG - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item PIVIK, R.T. - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item JARRETT, KELLY - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item Badger, Thomas
item OU, XIAWEI - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)

Submitted to: Journal of Neuroimaging
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/30/2018
Publication Date: 11/6/2018
Citation: Samara, A., Feng, K., Pivik, R., Jarrett, K.P., Badger, T.M., Ou, X. 2018. White matter microstructure correlates with memory performance in healthy children: A diffusion tensor imaging study. Journal of Neuroimaging.

Interpretive Summary: Memory is a very complex mental function that integrates information processing from different brain regions. Scientists of different specialties have been studying memory for a long time. However, previous studies largely focused on the brain gray matter's role in memory. The role of brain white matter has been less investigated, especially in children. In our study, we aimed to investigate the relationship between memory function and white matter microstructure measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in healthy 8-year-old children. It is especially important to assess memory- brain relationship in early school years because learning difficulties are most often diagnosed at this age. To explore this relationship, we examined children using diffusion tensor imaging (advanced MRI technology) to characterize white matter microstructure. Following that, children's memory function was assessed using the Children's Memory Scale test. The findings of our study indicate that higher integrity in certain white matter regions is associated with better performance in memory tests in these children. It is suggested that white matter plays an important role in connecting different and distant gray matter regions that are previously linked to memory function. In summary, our study is one of the few that investigated the role of brain white matter in memory function in healthy children. This contributes to our understanding of memory function as a cognitive function, and shows the value of MRI tools to look at brain function and development in children. The latter may be influenced by early-life regulators such as diet, exercise, or other factors which longer-term may influence memory and cognitive function.

Technical Abstract: The complex function of memory has been linked to different brain regions, including both grey and white matter. White matter (WM) abnormalities are associated with memory impairment in pathological conditions. We investigated whether variation in WM microstructure in healthy children correlates with their memory performance. Sixty-five 7.5-8.5 year-old healthy children had a brain MRI scan using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). They were also assessed for memory performance using the Children's Memory Scale (CMS). Eight indices that evaluate verbal and visual memory (immediate and delayed) were measured. DTI parameters reflecting WM microstructure including fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), radial diffusivity (RD), and axial diffusivity (AD) were calculated and correlated with memory indices using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) followed by region of interest (ROI) analyses. TBSS analysis showed multiple WM regions in which DTI parameters correlated with CMS indices. Specifically, increased FA (higher WM integrity) and decreased RD (higher myelination) in multiple projecting, association, and commissural WM tracts, positively correlated with verbal delayed index (P<0.05, corrected for voxel-wise multiple comparisons). In addition, increased FA in several WM tracts, including superior longitudinal fasciculus and posterior corona radiata, positively correlated with delayed recognition index (P<0.05, corrected). No significant correlations between MD or AD values and memory indices were observed. ROI analyses confirmed the TBSS findings. The study results showed significant correlations between DTI measured FA/ RD values and CMS indices (verbal delay and delayed recognition) in multiple WM tracts in healthy children.