White and grey matter relations to simple, choice, and cognitive reaction time in spina bifida
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Elevated reaction time (RT) is common in brain disorders. We studied three forms of RT in a neurodevelopmental disorder, spina bifida myelomeningocele (SBM), characterized by regional alterations of both white and grey matter, and typically developing individuals aged 8 to 48 years, in order to establish the nature of the lifespan-relations of RT and brain variables. Cognitive accuracy and RT speed and variability were all impaired in SBM relative to the typically developing group, but the most important effects of SBM on RT are seen on tasks that require a cognitive decision rule. Individuals with SBM are impaired not only in speeded performance, but also in the consistency of their performance on tasks that extend over time, which may contribute to poor performance on a range of cognitive tasks. The group with SBM showed smaller corrected corpus callosum proportions, larger corrected cerebellar white matter proportions, and larger corrected proportions for grey matter in the Central Executive and Salience networks. There were clear negative relations between RT measures and corpus callosum, Central Executive, and Default Mode networks in the group with SBM; relations were not observed in typically developing age peers. Statistical mediation analyses indicated that corpus callosum and Central Executive Network were important mediators. While RT is known to rely heavily on white matter under conditions of typical development and in individuals with adult-onset brain injury, we add the new information that additional involvement of grey matter may be important for a key neuropsychological function in a common neurodevelopmental disorder.
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