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Neurophysiol Clin. 2012 Jan-Feb;42(1-2):19-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2011.08.002. Epub 2011 Sep 1.

fMRI and MEG in the study of typical and atypical cognitive development.

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Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, On, Canada.


The tremendous changes in brain structure over childhood are critical to the development of cognitive functions. Neuroimaging provides a means of linking these brain-behaviour relations, as task protocols can be adapted for use with young children to assess the development of cognitive functions in both typical and atypical populations. This paper reviews some of our research using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional MRI (fMRI) in the study of cognitive development, with a focus on frontal lobe functions. Working memory for complex abstract patterns showed clear development in terms of the recruitment of frontal regions, seen with fMRI, with indications of strategy differences across the age range, from 6 to 35 years of age. Right hippocampal involvement was also evident in these n-back tasks, demonstrating its involvement in recognition in simple working memory protocols. Children born very preterm (7 to 9 years of age) showed reduced fMRI activation particularly in the precuneus and right hippocampal regions relative to control children. In a large normative n-back study (n=90) with upright and inverted faces, MEG data also showed right hippocampal activation that was present across the age range; frontal sources were evident only from 10 years of age. Other studies have investigated the development of set shifting, an executive function that is often deficit in atypical populations. fMRI showed recruitment of frontal areas, including the insula, that have significantly different patterns in children (7 to 14 years of age) with autism spectrum disorder compared to typically developing children, indicating that successful performance implicated differing strategies in these two groups of children. These types of studies will help our understanding of both normal brain-behaviour development and cognitive dysfunction in atypically developing populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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