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Dimensionality of brain networks linked to life-long individual differences in self-control.

Abstract

The ability to delay gratification in childhood has been linked to positive outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. Here we examine a subsample of participants from a seminal longitudinal study of self-control throughout a subjects life span. Self-control, first studied in children at age 4 years, is now re-examined 40 years later, on a task that required control over the contents of working memory. We examine whether patterns of brain activation on this task can reliably distinguish participants with consistently low and high self-control abilities (low versus high delayers). We find that low delayers recruit significantly higher-dimensional neural networks when performing the task compared with high delayers. High delayers are also more homogeneous as a group in their neural patterns compared with low delayers. From these brain patterns, we can predict with 71% accuracy, whether a participant is a high or low delayer. The present results suggest that dimensionality of neural networks is a biological predictor of self-control abilities.

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