Cortical gray-matter thinning is associated with age-related improvements on executive function tasks

Maria Kharitonova, Rebecca E. Martin, John D E Gabrieli, Margaret A. Sheridan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations

Abstract

Across development children show marked improvement in their executive functions (EFs), including the ability to hold information in working memory and to deploy cognitive control, allowing them to ignore prepotent responses in favor of newly learned behaviors. How does the brain support these age-related improvements? Age-related cortical gray-matter thinning, thought to result from selective pruning of inefficient synaptic connections and increases in myelination, may support age-related improvements in EFs. Here we used structural MRI to measure cortical thickness. We investigate the association between cortical thickness in three cortical regions of interest (ROIs), and age-related changes in cognitive control and working memory in 5-10 year old children. We found significant associations between reductions in cortical thickness and age-related improvements in performance on both working memory and cognitive control tasks. Moreover, we observed a dissociation between ROIs typically thought to underlie changes in cognitive control (right Inferior Frontal gyrus and Anterior Cingulate cortex) and age-related improvements in cognitive control, and ROIs for working memory (superior parietal cortex), and age-related changes in a working memory task. These data add to our growing understanding of how structural maturation of the brain supports vast behavioral changes in executive functions observed across childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Volume6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 12 2013

Keywords

  • Brain development
  • Cognitive control
  • Executive functions
  • MRI
  • Structural

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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