Associations between cortical thickness and verbal fluency in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood

Jim N Porter, Paul F Collins, Ryan L. Muetzel, Kelvin O Lim, Monica M Luciana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Neuroimaging studies of normative human brain development indicate that the brain matures at differing rates across time and brain regions, with some areas maturing into young adulthood. In particular, changes in cortical thickness may index maturational progressions from an overabundance of neuropil toward efficiently pruned neural networks. Developmental changes in structural MRI measures have rarely been examined in relation to discrete neuropsychological functions. In this study, healthy right-handed adolescents completed MRI scanning and the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT). Associations of task performance and cortical thickness were assessed with cortical-surface-based analyses. Significant correlations between increasing COWAT performances and decreasing cortical thickness were found in left hemisphere language regions, including perisylvian regions surrounding Wernicke's and Broca's areas. Task performance was also correlated with regions associated with effortful verbal processing, working memory, and performance monitoring. Structure-function associations were not significantly different between older and younger subjects. Decreases in cortical thicknesses in regions that comprise the language network likely reflect maturation toward adult-like cortical organization and processing efficiency. The changes in cortical thicknesses that support verbal fluency are apparent by middle childhood, but with regionally separate developmental trajectories for males and females, consistent with other studies of adolescent development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1865-1877
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by funding awarded to James N. Porter by the Center for Cognitive Science's Interdisciplinary Training Program in Cognitive Science (NIH 2T32HD007151 ), funding awarded to Monica Luciana by the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( R01DA017843 ), the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research ( P41 RR008079-13 and P30 NS057091 ), the Center for Neurobehavioral Development , and the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute for Advanced Computational Research .


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