Global associations between regional gray matter volume and diverse complex cognitive functions: evidence from a large sample study

Correlations between regional gray matter volume (rGMV) and psychometric test scores have been measured to investigate the neural bases for individual differences in complex cognitive abilities (CCAs). However, such studies have yielded different rGMV correlates of the same CCA. Based on the available evidence, we hypothesized that diverse CCAs are all positively but only weakly associated with rGMV in widespread brain areas. To test this hypothesis, we used the data from a large sample of healthy young adults [776 males and 560 females; mean age: 20.8 years, standard deviation (SD) = 0.8] and investigated associations between rGMV and scores on multiple CCA tasks (including non-verbal reasoning, verbal working memory, Stroop interference, and complex processing speed tasks involving spatial cognition and reasoning). Better performance scores on all tasks except non-verbal reasoning were associated with greater rGMV across widespread brain areas. The effect sizes of individual associations were generally low, consistent with our previous studies. The lack of strong correlations between rGMV and specific CCAs, combined with stringent corrections for multiple comparisons, may lead to different and diverse findings in the field.