Developmental neurobiology of cognitive control and motivational systems

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2010 Apr;20(2):236-41. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2010.01.006. Epub 2010 Feb 16.


One form of cognitive control is the ability to resist temptation in favor of long-term goal-oriented behavior. Historically, the development of cognitive control capacity has been described by a linear function from infancy to adulthood. However, the context in which control is required impacts behavioral regulation abilities, such that emotionally charged or rewarding contexts can diminish control. More recently, studies have begun to examine the development of cognitive control in contexts that vary in motivation. These studies suggest specific windows of development in which cognitive control capacity is more vulnerable to incentive-based modulation. In this review we highlight the most recent work on neurobiological changes supporting motivational and cognitive development, underscoring the importance of functional organization and development of the underlying circuitry implicated in these processes, and provide a theoretical perspective that moves away from discussing singular functional regions toward considering functional circuitry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Reward