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Working memory capacity is pivotal for a broad specter of cognitive tasks and develops throughout childhood. This must in part rely on development of neural connections and white matter microstructure maturation, but there is scarce knowledge of specific relations between this and different aspects of working memory. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) enables us to study development of brain white matter microstructure. In a longitudinal DTI study of 148 healthy children between 4 and 11 years scanned twice with an on average 1.6 years interval, we characterized change in fractional anisotropy (FA), mean (MD), radial (RD) and axial diffusivity (AD) in 10 major white matter tracts hypothesized to be of importance for working memory. The results showed relationships between change in several tracts and change in visuospatial working memory. Specifically, improvement in visuospatial working memory capacity was significantly associated with decreased MD, RD and AD in inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF), inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF) and uncinate fasciculus (UF) in the right hemisphere, as well as forceps major (FMaj). No significant relationships were found between change in DTI metrics and change in verbal working memory capacity. These findings yield new knowledge about brain development and corresponding working memory improvements in childhood.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Brain, Child, Child, Preschool, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Longitudinal Studies, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Neural Pathways, Neuropsychological Tests, Psychology, Child, Sex Characteristics, Space Perception, Spatial Memory, Visual Perception, White Matter