Recent imaging studies have suggested that developmental changes may parallel aspects of adult learning in cortical activation becoming less diffuse and more focal over time. However, while adult learning studies examine changes within subjects, developmental findings have been based on cross-sectional samples and even comparisons across studies. Here, we used functional MRI in children to test directly for shifts in cortical activity during performance of a cognitive control task, in a combined longitudinal and cross-sectional study. Our longitudinal findings, relative to our cross-sectional ones, show attenuated activation in dorsolateral prefrontal cortical areas, paralleled by increased focal activation in ventral prefrontal regions related to task performance.