Progressive increase of frontostriatal brain activation from childhood to adulthood during event-related tasks of cognitive control



Higher cognitive inhibitory and attention functions have been shown to develop throughout adolescence, presumably concurrent with anatomical brain maturational changes. The relatively scarce developmental functional imaging literature on cognitive control, however, has been inconsistent with respect to the neurofunctional substrates of this cognitive development, finding either increased or decreased executive prefrontal function in the progression from childhood to adulthood. Such inconsistencies may be due to small subject numbers or confounds from age-related performance differences in block design functional MRI (fMRI). In this study, rapid, randomized, mixed-trial event-related fMRI was used to investigate developmental differences of the neural networks mediating a range of motor and cognitive inhibition functions in a sizeable number of adolescents and adults. Functional brain activation was compared between adolescents and adults during three different executive tasks measuring selective motor response inhibition (Go/no-go task), cognitive interference inhibition (Simon task), and attentional set shifting (Switch task). Adults compared with children showed increased brain activation in task-specific frontostriatal networks, including right orbital and mesial prefrontal cortex and caudate during the Go/no-go task, right mesial and inferior prefrontal cortex, parietal lobe, and putamen during the Switch task and left dorsolateral and inferior frontotemporoparietal regions and putamen during the Simon task. Whole-brain regression analyses with age across all subjects showed progressive age-related changes in similar and extended clusters of task-specific frontostriatal, frontotemporal, and frontoparietal networks. The findings suggest progressive maturation of task-specific frontostriatal and frontocortical networks for cognitive control functions in the transition from childhood to mid-adulthood. Hum Brain Mapp, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.