Diffusion MRI reveals memory capacity in healthy children

By assessing the degree of variegation in the white matter of children’s brains using diffusion-weighted MRI, neuroradiologists can predict how well the kids will perform in memory tests, according to researchers at the University of Arkansas and Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center.

In introducing their findings, published online Nov. 6 in the Journal of Neuroimaging, senior author Xiawei Ou, PhD, and colleagues note that white-matter abnormalities are known to correlate with memory impairment in children who have various illnesses and injuries.

To test whether variations in white-matter microstructure similarly correlates with memory performance in healthy children, they sent 65 subjects between 7½ and 8½ years old for brain MRI using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).  

Meanwhile the researchers used a standardized pediatric memory scale to assess the children for memory performance during verbal and visual exercises.

Their analysis of the two sets of findings showed multiple white-matter tracts in which DTI parameters correlated with indices in the performance scale.

Further, Ou and team found similar correlations between memory-test scores and DTI parameters for the cingulum and several other brain regions.

The significant correlations they found between DTI parameter values and healthy children’s memory indices in multiple white-matter tracts, the authors conclude, indicate that “neuroimaging can sensitively detect brain white-matter changes associated with variations of memory function, even for that in the normal range.”