Brain Topography

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 111–117 | Cite as

Grey Matter Volumes in the Executive Attention System Predict Individual Differences in Effortful Control in Young Adults

  • Luqing Wei
  • Nana Guo
  • Chris Baeken
  • Minghua Bi
  • Xiaowan Wang
  • Jiang Qiu
  • Guo-Rong WuEmail author
Original Paper


Effortful control (EC), considered as one component of temperament, describes an individual’s capacity for self-regulation. Previous neuroimaging studies have provided convergent evidence that individual differences in EC are determined by the functioning of neural systems subserving executive attention, primarily comprising the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC). Notwithstanding, as previous neuroimaging findings highlighted the structural neural bases of EC in adolescence, during which the PFC is prominently remodeled, the underlying neuroanatomical substrates of EC remain uncertain in young adults. In this study, we included 246 healthy young adults and used voxel-based morphometry analysis to investigate the relationship between EC and grey matter (GM) volumes. Additionally, permutation testing and cross-validation were applied to determine whether GM volumes in the detected regions could predict individual differences in EC. Our results revealed that EC was associated with GM volumes in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA), demonstrating that these two regions may play a crucial role in EC. Furthermore, the identified regional GM volumes reliably contribute to the prediction of EC confirmed by cross-validation. Overall, these findings provide further evidence for the involvement of the executive attention system in EC, and shed more light on the neuroanatomical substrates of EC in young adulthood.


Effortful control Voxel-based morphometry Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex Pre-supplementary motor area 



G-R.W was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 61876156, 61403312), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No. SWU116074). This research was supported by a grant of het Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Rode Neuzen (G0F4617N).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality, Faculty of PsychologySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Medical PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel (UZ Brussel)BrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.Ghent Experimental Psychiatry (GHEP) LabGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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