Individual differences in white-matter microstructure reflect variation in functional connectivity during choice.
Boorman ED., O'Shea J., Sebastian C., Rushworth MFS., Johansen-Berg H.
The relation between brain structure and function is of fundamental importance in neuroscience. Comparisons between behavioral and brain-imaging measures suggest that variation in brain structure correlates with the presence of specific skills. Behavioral measures, however, reflect the integrated function of multiple brain regions. Rather than behavior, a physiological index of function could be a more sensitive and informative measure with which to compare structural measures. Here, we test for a relationship between a physiological measure of functional connectivity between two brain areas during a simple decision-making task and a measure of structural connectivity. Paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation indexed functional connectivity between two regions important for action choices: the premotor and motor cortex. Fractional anisotropy (FA), a marker of microstructural integrity, indexed structural connectivity. Individual differences in functional connectivity during action selection show highly specific correlations with FA in localized regions of white-matter interconnecting regions, including the premotor and motor cortex. Probabilistic tractography, a technique for identifying fiber pathways from diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), was used to reconstruct the anatomical networks linking the component brain regions involved in making decisions. These findings demonstrate a relationship between individual differences in functional and structural connectivity within human brain networks central to action choice.