The neuroanatomical bases of episodic memory (EM) and executive functions (EFs) have been widely addressed in patients with brain damage and in individuals with neurologic disorders. These studies reported that larger brain structures support better outcomes in both cognitive domains, thereby supporting the "bigger is better" account. However, relatively few studies have explored the cerebral morphological properties underlying EM and EFs in cognitively healthy individuals and current findings indicate no unitary theoretical explanation for the structure-function relationship. Moreover, existing studies have typically restricted the analyses to a priori defined regions of interest. Here we conducted unbiased voxel-wise analysis of the associations between regional gray as well as white matter volumes (GMv; WMv) and performance in both cognitive domains in a sample of 463 cognitively intact individuals. We found that efficiency in EM was predicted by lower GMv in brain areas belonging to the default-mode network (DMN). By contrast, EFs performance was predicted by larger GMv in a distributed set of regions, which overlapped with the executive control network (ECN). Volume of white matter bundles supporting both cross-cortical and interhemispheric connections was positively related to processing speed. Furthermore, aging modulated the relationship between regional volumes and cognitive performance in several areas including the hippocampus and frontal cortex. Our data extend the critical role of the DMN and ECN by showing that variability in their morphological properties, and not only their activation patterns, affects EM and EFs, respectively. Moreover, our finding that aging reverts these associations supports previously advanced theories of cognitive neurodevelopment.
Cacciaglia R, Molinuevo JL, Sánchez-Benavides G, Falcon C, Gramunt N,Brugulat-Serrat A, Grau-Rivera O, Gispert JD. Episodic Memory and Executive Function in cognitively Healthy Individuals Display Distinct Neuroanatomical Correlates which are Differentially Modulated by Aging. Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Jul 4. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24306.