Cognitive processing speed and the structure of white matter pathways: Convergent evidence from normal variation and lesion studies

AndU Turken, Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, Roland Bammer, Juliana V. Baldo, Nina Dronkers, John D E Gabrieli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

327 Scopus citations


We investigated the relation between cognitive processing speed and structural properties of white matter pathways via convergent imaging studies in healthy and brain-injured groups. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was applied to diffusion tensor imaging data from thirty-nine young healthy subjects in order to investigate the relation between processing speed, as assessed with the Digit-Symbol subtest from WAIS-III, and fractional anisotropy, an index of microstructural organization of white matter. Digit-Symbol performance was positively correlated with fractional anisotropy of white matter in the parietal and temporal lobes bilaterally and in the left middle frontal gyrus. Fiber tractography indicated that these regions are consistent with the trajectories of the superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi. In a second investigation, we assessed the effect of white matter damage on processing speed using voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping (VLSM) analysis of data from seventy-two patients with left-hemisphere strokes. Lesions in left parietal white matter, together with cortical lesions in supramarginal and angular gyri were associated with impaired performance. These findings suggest that cognitive processing speed, as assessed by the Digit-Symbol test, is closely related to the structural integrity of white matter tracts associated with parietal and temporal cortices and left middle frontal gyrus. Further, fiber tractography applied to VBM results and the patient findings suggest that the superior longitudinal fasciculus, a major tract subserving fronto-parietal integration, makes a prominent contribution to processing speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1032-1044
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 15 2008


  • Cognitive processing speed
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Individual differences
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Neural pathways
  • Neuropsychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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