Early adolescent cortical thinning is related to better neuropsychological performance.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1017/s1355617713000878
Adolescence is characterized by significant neuromaturation, including extensive cortical thinning, particularly in frontal regions. The goal of this study was to examine the behavioral correlates of neurostructural development in early adolescence. Participants were 185 healthy 12- to 14-year-olds (44% female) recruited from local schools. Participants completed a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery and magnetic resonance imaging session. Cortical surface reconstruction and thickness estimates were performed via FreeSurfer. Age and cortical thickness were negatively correlated in 10 brain regions, 7 of which were in frontal areas (β = −.15 to −.25, ps ≤ .05). Hierarchical linear regressions examined the influence of cortical thickness on working memory, attention, verbal learning and memory, visuospatial functioning, spatial planning and problem solving, and inhibition, controlling for age and intracranial volume. Thinner parietal cortices predicted better performances on tests of verbal learning and memory, visuospatial functioning, and spatial planning and problem solving (β = −.14 to −.24, ps ≤ .05). Age, spanning from 12 to 14 years, accounted for up to 6% of cortical thickness, suggesting substantial thinning during early adolescence, with males showing more accelerated thinning than females between ages 12 and 14. For both males and females, thinner parietal association cortices corresponded with better neurocognitive functioning above and beyond age alone.