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James W. Pennebaker, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596

NIH Grant Awarded to Robert Josephs and Peter Giancola to Study Effects of Alcohol on Aggression

Posted: April 1, 2009

Do individual differences in White Matter microstructure predict cognitive or genetic vulnerabilities? That is a question being asked by researchers in the Department of Psychology here at UT by using a technique referred to as Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI).

DTI images

The left hand figure shows the relationship between cognitive vulnerability to sleep deprivation and a composite measure of white matter microstructure in the genu of the corpus callosum. The right hand figure shows the relationship of the same measure of WM microstructure in a critical frontal-limbic pathway and 5-HTTLPR genetic status, that has been related to depression vulnerability.

 

In a recently accepted paper in the Journal of Neuroscience, Jenni Pacheco, Chris Beevers and David Schnyer demonstrated that people at genetic risk for depression show alterations in a critical limbic-frontal white matter pathway that has been postulated to be involved in the cognitive control of emotion. Further, in a second study, Chris Beevers, Jenni Pacheco, Peter Clasen, and David Schnyer found that smaller prefrontal white matter volume predicted delayed disengagement of attention from emotional stimuli among people at genetic risk for depression. Finally, in an article recently accepted in the journal Sleep, Matt Rocklage, Jenni Pacheco and David Schnyer demonstrated extensive white matter differences that predict cognitive vulnerability to the effects of sleep deprivation. Together these papers reveal the importance of considering white matter structure when brain mapping mental abilities.

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