Attentional Control and Intelligence: MRI Orbital Frontal Gray Matter and Neuropsychological Correlates

Nestor PG, Nakamura M, Niznikiewicz M, Levitt JJ, Newell DT, Shenton ME, McCarley RW

Behav Neurol 2015;2015:354186

PMID: 26101457


Attentional control is a key function of working memory that is hypothesized to play an important role in psychometric intelligence. To test the neuropsychological underpinnings of this hypothesis, we examined full-scale IQ, as measured by the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WAIS-III), and attentional control, as measured by Trails B response time and Wisconsin Card Sorting (WCS) test perseverative errors in 78 healthy participants, 25 of whom also had available magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) gray matter volume studies of the orbital frontal cortex (OFC) parcellated into three regions: gyrus rectus, middle orbital gyrus, and lateral orbital gyrus. Hierarchical regression indicated that Trails B response time specifically explained 15.13% to 19.18% of the variation in IQ and WCS perseverative errors accounted for an additional 8.12% to 11.29% of the variance. Full-scale IQ correlated very strongly with right middle orbital gyrus gray matter volume (r = 0.610, p = 0.002), as did Trails B response time with left middle orbital gyrus gray matter volume (r = -0.608, p = 0.003). Trails B response time and right middle orbital gyrus gray matter volume jointly accounted for approximately 32.95% to 54.82% of the variance in IQ scores. These results provided evidence of the unique contributions of attentional control and OFC gray matter to intelligence.