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Curious connections: white matter pathways supporting individual differences in epistemic and perceptual curiosity

Valji, Ashanti, Priemysheva, Alisa, Hodgetts, Carl J. ORCID:, Costigan, Alison G. ORCID:, Parker, Greg D., Graham, Kim S. ORCID:, Lawrence, Andrew D. ORCID: and Gruber, Matthias J. ORCID: 2019. Curious connections: white matter pathways supporting individual differences in epistemic and perceptual curiosity. [Online]. bioRxiv. Available at:

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Across the lifespan, curiosity motivates us to learn, yet curiosity varies strikingly between individuals. Such individual differences have been shown for two distinct dimensions of curiosity: epistemic curiosity (EC), the desire to acquire knowledge about facts, and perceptual curiosity (PC), the desire for sensory information. It is not known, however, whether both dimensions of curiosity depend on different brain networks and whether inter-individual differences in curiosity depend on variation in anatomical connectivity within these networks. Here, we investigated the neuroanatomical connections underpinning individual variation in trait curiosity. Fifty-one female participants underwent a two-shell diffusion MRI sequence and completed questionnaires measuring EC and PC. Using deterministic spherical deconvolution tractography we extracted microstructural metrics (fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD)) from two key white matter tracts: the fornix (implicated in novelty processing, exploration, information seeking and episodic memory) and the inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF) (implicated in semantic learning and memory). In line with our predictions, we found that EC – but not PC – correlated with ILF microstructure. Fornix microstructure, in contrast, correlated with both EC and PC with posterior hippocampal fornix fibres - associated with posterior hippocampal network connectivity - linked to PC specifically. These findings suggest that differences in distinct dimensions of curiosity map systematically onto specific white matter tracts underlying well characterized brain networks. Furthermore, the results pave the way to study the anatomical substrates of inter-individual differences in dimensions of trait curiosity that motivate the learning of distinct forms of knowledge and skills.

Item Type: Website Content
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Medicine
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Publisher: bioRxiv
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2023 01:47

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