Plasticity of left perisylvian white-matter tracts is associated with individual differences in math learning
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CitationJolles, Dietsje, Demian Wassermann, Ritika Chokhani, Jennifer Richardson, Caitlin Tenison, Roland Bammer, Lynn Fuchs, Kaustubh Supekar, and Vinod Menon. 2015. “Plasticity of left perisylvian white-matter tracts is associated with individual differences in math learning.” Brain Structure & Function 221 (1): 1337-1351. doi:10.1007/s00429-014-0975-6. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00429-014-0975-6.
AbstractPlasticity of white matter tracts is thought to be essential for cognitive development and academic skill acquisition in children. However, a dearth of high-quality diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data measuring longitudinal changes with learning, as well as methodological difficulties in multi-time point tract identification have limited our ability to investigate plasticity of specific white matter tracts. Here, we examine learning-related changes of white matter tracts innervating inferior parietal, prefrontal and temporal regions following an intense 2-month math tutoring program. DTI data were acquired from 18 third grade children, both before and after tutoring. A novel fiber tracking algorithm based on a White Matter Query Language (WMQL) was used to identify three sections of the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) linking frontal and parietal (SLF-FP), parietal and temporal (SLF-PT) and frontal and temporal (SLF-FT) cortices, from which we created child-specific probabilistic maps. The SLF-FP, SLF-FT, and SLF-PT tracts identified with the WMQL method were highly reliable across the two time points and showed close correspondence to tracts previously described in adults. Notably, individual differences in behavioral gains after 2 months of tutoring were specifically correlated with plasticity in the left SLF-FT tract. Our results extend previous findings of individual differences in white matter integrity, and provide important new insights into white matter plasticity related to math learning in childhood. More generally, our quantitative approach will be useful for future studies examining longitudinal changes in white matter integrity associated with cognitive skill development. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00429-014-0975-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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