Response inhibition is thought to improve throughout childhood and into adulthood. Despite the relationship between age and the ability to stop ongoing behavior, questions remain regarding whether these age-related changes reflect improvements in response inhibition or in other factors that contribute to response performance variability. Functional neuroimaging data shows age-related changes in neural activity during response inhibition. While traditional methods of exploring neuroimaging data are limited to determining correlational relationships, newer methods can determine predictability and can begin to answer these questions. Therefore, the goal of the current study was to determine which aspects of neural function predict individual differences in age, inhibitory function, response speed, and response time variability. We administered a stop-signal task requiring rapid inhibition of ongoing motor responses to healthy participants aged 9-30. We conducted a standard analysis using GLM and a predictive analysis using high-dimensional regression methods. During successful response inhibition we found regions typically involved in motor control, such as the ACC and striatum, that were correlated with either age, response inhibition (as indexed by stop-signal reaction time; SSRT), response speed, or response time variability. However, when examining which variables neural data could predict, we found that age and SSRT, but not speed or variability of response execution, were predicted by neural activity during successful response inhibition. This predictive relationship provides novel evidence that developmental differences and individual differences in response inhibition are related specifically to inhibitory processes. More generally, this study demonstrates a new approach to identifying the neurocognitive bases of individual differences.
Keywords: development; fMRI; predictive analysis; response inhibition; stop-signal.