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J Neurosci. 2009 Oct 7;29(40):12558-67. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1579-09.2009.

The maturation of task set-related activation supports late developmental improvements in inhibitory control.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


The ability to voluntarily inhibit a single response is evident early in development, even as the ability to maintain an inhibitory "task set" continues to improve. To date, functional neuroimaging studies have detailed developmental changes in systems supporting inhibitory control exerted at the single-trial level, but changes underlying the ability to maintain an inhibitory task set remain little understood. Here we present findings from a functional magnetic resonance imaging study that characterizes the development of systems supporting both transient (trial-related) and sustained (task set-related) activation during performance of the antisaccade task-an oculomotor test of inhibitory control (Hallett, 1978). Transient activation decreased from childhood to adolescence in regions known to support inhibitory processes and oculomotor control, likely reflecting less effortful response production. In contrast, sustained activation increased to adulthood in regions implicated in control. Our results suggest that development of the ability to maintain a task set is primary to the maturation of inhibitory control and, furthermore, that this ability is still immature in adolescence.

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