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Resting-state connectivity and its association with cognitive performance, educational attainment, and household income in UK Biobank (N = 3,950)

By Xueyi Shen, Simon R Cox, Mark J. Adams, David M. Howard, Stephen M Lawrie, Stuart J. Ritchie, Mark E. Bastin, Ian J. Deary, Andrew M. McIntosh, Heather C Whalley

Posted 15 Jul 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/164053 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2018.06.007)

Cognitive ability is an important predictor of lifelong physical and mental well-being and its impairments are associated with many psychiatric disorders. Higher cognitive ability is also associated with greater educational attainment and increased household income. Understanding neural mechanisms underlying cognitive ability is therefore of crucial importance for determining the nature of these associations. In the current study, we examined the spontaneous activity of the brain at rest to investigate its relationships with not only cognitive ability, but also educational attainment and household income. We used a large sample of resting-state neuroimaging data from UK Biobank (N=3,950). Firstly, analysis at the whole-brain level showed that connections involving the default mode network (DMN), fronto-parietal network (FPN) and cingulo-opercular network (CON) were significantly positively associated with levels of cognitive performance assessed by a verbal-numerical reasoning test (standardised β ranged from 0.054 to 0.097). Connections associated with higher levels of cognitive performance were also significantly positively associated with educational attainment (r=0.48, N=4,160) and household income (r=0.38, N=3,793). Further, analysis on the coupling of functional networks showed that better cognitive performance was associated with more positive DMN-CON connections, decreased cross-hemisphere connections between homotopic network in CON and FPN, and stronger CON-FPN connections (absolute β ranged from 0.034 to 0.063). The present study finds that variation in brain resting state functional connectivity associated with individual differences in cognitive ability, largely involving DMN and lateral prefrontal networks. Additionally, we provide further evidence of shared neural associations of cognitive ability, educational attainment, and household income.

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