Dimensionality of brain networks linked to life-long individual differences in self-control Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Brain
  • Individuality
  • Inhibition (Psychology)
  • Nerve Net


  • The ability to delay gratification in childhood has been linked to positive outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. Here we examine a subsample of participants from a seminal longitudinal study of self-control throughout a subject's life span. Self-control, first studied in children at age 4 years, is now re-examined 40 years later, on a task that required control over the contents of working memory. We examine whether patterns of brain activation on this task can reliably distinguish participants with consistently low and high self-control abilities (low versus high delayers). We find that low delayers recruit significantly higher-dimensional neural networks when performing the task compared with high delayers. High delayers are also more homogeneous as a group in their neural patterns compared with low delayers. From these brain patterns, we can predict with 71% accuracy, whether a participant is a high or low delayer. The present results suggest that dimensionality of neural networks is a biological predictor of self-control abilities.

publication date

  • October 28, 2013



  • Academic Article



  • eng

PubMed Central ID

  • PMC3555568

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/ncomms2374

PubMed ID

  • 23340413

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 1373


  • 4