Working memory network function appears to be positively correlated with variables demonstrating better cognitive abilities and physical wellness, while the opposite association exists for signs of suboptimal health and substance use, according to recent findings.
In the study, researchers used data on 823 healthy individuals (462 women, mean age 29 years) from the Human Connectome Project (HCP) database. They assessed participants based on 116 variables analogous with demographic characteristics, task performance during sensorimotor processing, affective and nonaffective cognition, mental health/personality, physical well-being and lifestyle habits.
RI data were obtained while participants performed the HCP version of the two-back task.
Sparse canonical correlation analyses (sCCAs) were conducted at two levels. The global-level sCCA evaluated the overall link between the entire imaging and behavioral-health data sets, while the modular level considered correlations between subsets of the two data sets.
The researchers found that in the global sCCA, there was a significant association between the two data sets (r = 0.5; P = .00002). Of the behavioral-health variables analyzed, the following had the strongest associations (positive or negative) with the imaging variate: psychometric measures of fluid intelligence, memory, reading/language, visuospatial orientation, sustained attention, mental flexibility and emotional recognition; behavioral measures related to aggression, traits related to physical endurance, BMI and hemoglobin A1c and lifestyle factors (alcohol and smoking). Variables determined to have positive associations to the imaging variate were positive cognitive and physical traits, while variables with a negative correlation represented poor health indicators and lifestyle choices. Of the imaging variables, measures of activation were more highly correlated with the behavioral-health variate.
working memory task activation variate was significantly linked to the following: affective and nonaffective cognition, mental health and personality, and physical health/lifestyle. Behavioral variables most strongly linked to the working memory-task activation were as follows: fluid intelligence, language, memory and abstraction, recognition of facial emotion, openness, and physical endurance.
In terms of the dynamic causal modeling variate, the only association identified was with the nonaffective cognition module (mainly fluid intelligence, language and spatial orientation).
Functional connectivity variates both during tasks and a resting state were primarily linked to the physical health and lifestyle module; positive correlations were seen with better endurance, higher hematocrit and sleep quality. Conversely, higher BMI, high blood pressure and poor glucose control had a damaging effect on these measures.
“We describe a brain-behavior model for working memory that demonstrates a positive association between working memory-network function, with variables reflecting better cognitive abilities and physical well-being, whereas the opposite was the case for indicators of suboptimal health and substance use,” the researchers wrote. “We confirm that the working memory network is closely linked to general intellectual ability and acts as a domain-general network to support multiple higher-order cognitive functions. – by Jennifer Byrne
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.