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White Matter Integrity Dissociates Verbal Memory and Auditory Attention Span in Emerging Adults with Congenital Heart Disease

  • Ryan C. Brewster (a1), Tricia Z. King (a1), Thomas G. Burns (a2) (a3), David M. Drossner (a2) and William T. Mahle (a2) (a3)...


White matter disruptions have been identified in individuals with congenital heart disease (CHD). However, no specific theory-driven relationships between microstructural white matter disruptions and cognition have been established in CHD. We conducted a two-part study. First, we identified significant differences in fractional anisotropy (FA) of emerging adults with CHD using Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS). TBSS analyses between 22 participants with CHD and 18 demographically similar controls identified five regions of normal appearing white matter with significantly lower FA in CHD, and two higher. Next, two regions of lower FA in CHD were selected to examine theory-driven differential relationships with cognition: voxels along the left uncinate fasciculus (UF; a tract theorized to contribute to verbal memory) and voxels along the right middle cerebellar peduncle (MCP; a tract previously linked to attention). In CHD, a significant positive correlation between UF FA and memory was found, r(20)=.42, p=.049 (uncorrected). There was no correlation between UF and auditory attention span. A positive correlation between MCP FA and auditory attention span was found, r(20)=.47, p=.027 (uncorrected). There was no correlation between MCP and memory. In controls, no significant relationships were identified. These results are consistent with previous literature demonstrating lower FA in younger CHD samples, and provide novel evidence for disrupted white matter integrity in emerging adults with CHD. Furthermore, a correlational double dissociation established distinct white matter circuitry (UF and MCP) and differential cognitive correlates (memory and attention span, respectively) in young adults with CHD. (JINS, 2015, 21, 22–33)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Tricia Z. King, Department of Psychology, Georgia State University 140 Decatur Street, Urban Life Building Suite 1150, Atlanta, GA 30303. E-mail:


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