Myelin content of the cerebral cortex likely impacts cognitive functioning, but this notion has scarcely been investigated in vivo in humans. Here we tested for a relationship between intracortical myelin and a direct measure of neural activity in the form of the electrophysiological response error-related negativity (ERN). Using magnetic resonance imaging, myelin mapping was performed in 81 healthy adults aged 40–60 years by means of a T1- and T2-weighted (T1w/T2w) signal intensity ratio approach. Error trials on a version of the Eriksen flanker task triggered the ERN, a negative deflection of the event-related potential reflecting performance monitoring. Compelling evidence from neuroimaging, lesion, and source localization studies indicates that the ERN stems from the cingulate cortex. Vertex-wise analyses across the cingulate demonstrated that increased amplitude of the ERN was related to higher levels of intracortical myelin in the left posterior cingulate cortex. The association was independent of general ability level and subjacent white matter myelin. The results fit the notion that degree of myelin within the posterior cingulate cortex as measured by T1w/T2w signal intensity plays a role in error processing and cognitive control through the relationship with neural activity as measured by ERN amplitude, potentially by facilitating local neural synchronization.
This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Cerebral Cortex following peer review. The version of record is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhv065