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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2013 Oct;6:61-71. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2013.07.002. Epub 2013 Jul 13.

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

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  • 1Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.


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.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Brain development; Cognitive control; Executive functions; Structural MRI

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