T. Booth, D. Dykiert, J. Corley, A. Gow, Z. Morris, S. Muñoz Maniega, N. Royle, M. Valdés Hernández, J. Starr, L. Penke, M. Bastin, J. Wardlaw and I. Deary

Reaction time variability and brain white matter integrity


Objective: Mean speed of responding is the most commonly used measure in the assessment of reaction time (RT). An alternative measure is intraindividual variability (IIV): the inconsistency of responding across multiple trials of a test. IIV has been suggested as an important indicator of central nervous system functioning, and as such, there has been increasing interest in the associations between IIV and brain imaging metrics. Results however, have been inconsistent. The present seeks to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the associations between a variety of measures of brain white matter integrity and individual differences in choice RT (CRT) IIV. Method: MRI brain scans of members of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 were assessed to obtain measures of the volume and severity of white matter hyperintensities, and the integrity of brain white matter tracts. CRT was assessed with a 4 CRT task on a separate occasion. Data were analyzed using multiple regression (N range = 358–670). Results: Greater volume of hyperintensities and more severe hyperintensities in frontal regions were associated with higher CRT IIV. White matter tract integrity, as assessed by both fractional anisotropy and mean diffusivity, showed the smallest effect sizes in associations with CRT IIV. Associations with hyperintensities were attenuated and no longer significant after controlling for M CRT. Conclusions: Taken together, the results of the present study suggested that IIV was not incrementally predictive of white matter integrity over mean speed. This is in contrast to previous reports, and highlights the need for further study.