Associations between cortical thickness and general intelligence in children, adolescents and young adults

Kyle Menary, Paul F. Collins, James N. Porter, Ryan Muetzel, Elizabeth A. Olson, Vipin Kumar, Michael Steinbach, Kelvin O. Lim, Monica Luciana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging research indicates that human intellectual ability is related to brain structure including the thickness of the cerebral cortex. Most studies indicate that general intelligence is positively associated with cortical thickness in areas of association cortex distributed throughout both brain hemispheres. In this study, we performed a cortical thickness mapping analysis on data from 182 healthy typically developing males and females ages 9 to 24. years to identify correlates of general intelligence (g) scores. To determine if these correlates also mediate associations of specific cognitive abilities with cortical thickness, we regressed specific cognitive test scores on g scores and analyzed the residuals with respect to cortical thickness. The effect of age on the association between cortical thickness and intelligence was examined. We found a widely distributed pattern of positive associations between cortical thickness and g scores, as derived from the first unrotated principal factor of a factor analysis of Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) subtest scores. After WASI specific cognitive subtest scores were regressed on g factor scores, the residual score variances did not correlate significantly with cortical thickness in the full sample with age covaried. When participants were grouped at the age median, significant positive associations of cortical thickness were obtained in the older group for g-residualized scores on Block Design (a measure of visual-motor integrative processing) while significant negative associations of cortical thickness were observed in the younger group for g-residualized Vocabulary scores. These results regarding correlates of general intelligence are concordant with the existing literature, while the findings from younger versus older subgroups have implications for future research on brain structural correlates of specific cognitive abilities, as well as the cognitive domain specificity of behavioral performance correlates of normative gray matter thinning during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-606
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by grant DA017843 awarded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to M. Luciana and by grants P41 RR008079 and P41 EB015894 awarded to the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research .

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cortical thickness
  • Development
  • General intelligence
  • Neuroimaging
  • Specific cognitive abilities


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