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Several studies have established specific relationships between White Matter (WM) and behaviour. However, these studies have typically focussed on fractional anisotropy (FA), a neuroimaging metric that is sensitive to multiple tissue properties, making it difficult to identify what biological aspects of WM may drive such relationships. Here, we carry out a pre-registered assessment of WM-behaviour relationships in 50 healthy individuals across multiple behavioural and anatomical domains, and complementing FA with myelin-sensitive quantitative MR modalities (MT, R1, R2∗). Surprisingly, we only find support for predicted relationships between FA and behaviour in one of three pre-registered tests. For one behavioural domain, where we failed to detect an FA-behaviour correlation, we instead find evidence for a correlation between behaviour and R1. This hints that multimodal approaches are able to identify a wider range of WM-behaviour relationships than focusing on FA alone. To test whether a common biological substrate such as myelin underlies WM-behaviour relationships, we then ran joint multimodal analyses, combining across all MRI parameters considered. No significant multimodal signatures were found and power analyses suggested that sample sizes of 40-200 may be required to detect such joint multimodal effects, depending on the task being considered. These results demonstrate that FA-behaviour relationships from the literature can be replicated, but may not be easily generalisable across domains. Instead, multimodal microstructural imaging may be best placed to detect a wider range of WM-behaviour relationships, as different MRI modalities provide distinct biological sensitivities. Our findings highlight a broad heterogeneity in WM's relationship with behaviour, suggesting that variable biological effects may be shaping their interaction.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





187 - 200


Bimanual coordination, Cognitive control, Microstructural imaging, Multimodal imaging, Myelin, White matter, Anisotropy, Brain, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, White Matter