Nature Reviews Neuroscience 12, 231-242 (April 2011) | doi:10.1038/nrn3000

OpinionThe structural basis of inter-individual differences in human behaviour and cognition

Ryota Kanai1 & Geraint Rees1,2  About the authors


Inter-individual variability in perception, thought and action is frequently treated as a source of 'noise' in scientific investigations of the neural mechanisms that underlie these processes, and discarded by averaging data from a group of participants. However, recent MRI studies in the human brain show that inter-individual variability in a wide range of basic and higher cognitive functions — including perception, motor control, memory, aspects of consciousness and the ability to introspect — can be predicted from the local structure of grey and white matter as assessed by voxel-based morphometry or diffusion tensor imaging. We propose that inter-individual differences can be used as a source of information to link human behaviour and cognition to brain anatomy.

Author affiliations

  1. Ryota Kanai and Geraint Rees are at The UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK.
  2. Geraint Rees is also at The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London, WC1N 3BG, UK.

Correspondence to: Ryota Kanai1 Email:

Published online 16 March 2011