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Empirical examination of the replicability of associations between brain structure and psychological variables

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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e43464 doi: 10.7554/eLife.43464

Abstract

Linking interindividual differences in psychological phenotype to variations in brain structure is an old dream for psychology and a crucial question for cognitive neurosciences. Yet, replicability of the previously-reported 'structural brain behavior' (SBB)-associations has been questioned, recently. Here, we conducted an empirical investigation, assessing replicability of SBB among heathy adults. For a wide range of psychological measures, the replicability of associations with gray matter volume was assessed. Our results revealed that among healthy individuals 1) finding an association between performance at standard psychological tests and brain morphology is relatively unlikely 2) significant associations, found using an exploratory approach, have overestimated effect sizes and 3) can hardly be replicated in an independent sample. After considering factors such as sample size and comparing our findings with more replicable SBB-associations in a clinical cohort and replicable associations between brain structure and non-psychological phenotype, we discuss the potential causes and consequences of these findings.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Shahrzad Kharabian Masouleh

    Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-7: Brain and Behaviour), Research Centre Jülich, Jülich, Germany
    For correspondence
    s.kharabian@fz-juelich.de
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-4810-9542
  2. Simon B Eickhoff

    Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-7: Brain and Behaviour), Research Centre Jülich, Jülich, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6363-2759
  3. Felix Hoffstaedter

    Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-7: Brain and Behaviour), Research Centre Jülich, Jülich, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Sarah Genon

    Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-7: Brain and Behaviour), Research Centre Jülich, Jülich, Germany
    For correspondence
    s.genon@fz-juelich.de
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative

Funding

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

  • Shahrzad Kharabian Masouleh
  • Sarah Genon

Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

  • Shahrzad Kharabian Masouleh
  • Simon B Eickhoff
  • Felix Hoffstaedter
  • Sarah Genon

Horizon 2020 Framework Programme

  • Shahrzad Kharabian Masouleh
  • Simon B Eickhoff
  • Felix Hoffstaedter
  • Sarah Genon

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Human subjects: Institutional Review Board Approval (IRBA) was obtained for this project at the Nathan Kline Institute (Phase I #226781 and Phase II #239708) and at Montclair State University (Phase I #000983A and Phase II #000983B). Written informed consent was obtained for all study participants.For ADNI data, IRBA was also obtained within each participating institute as well as informed consent forms were signed by each participant (see https://adni.loni.usc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ADNID_Approved_Protocol_11.19.14.pdf for detailed information about ethical procedures for ADNI).Additionally, analysis of the data from both eNKI (Study No. 4039) and ADNI (Registration No. 2018114856) received ethical approval from the ethics committee of medical faculty at the University of Düsseldorf.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Thomas E Nichols, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: November 7, 2018
  2. Accepted: March 8, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: March 13, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: April 25, 2019 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2019, Kharabian Masouleh et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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