Functional networks in parallel with cortical development associate with executive functions in children

Cereb Cortex. 2014 Jul;24(7):1937-47. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht051. Epub 2013 Feb 28.

Abstract

Children begin performing similarly to adults on tasks requiring executive functions in late childhood, a transition that is probably due to neuroanatomical fine-tuning processes, including myelination and synaptic pruning. In parallel to such structural changes in neuroanatomical organization, development of functional organization may also be associated with cognitive behaviors in children. We examined 6- to 10-year-old children's cortical thickness, functional organization, and cognitive performance. We used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify areas with cortical thinning, resting-state fMRI to identify functional organization in parallel to cortical development, and working memory/response inhibition tasks to assess executive functioning. We found that neuroanatomical changes in the form of cortical thinning spread over bilateral frontal, parietal, and occipital regions. These regions were engaged in 3 functional networks: sensorimotor and auditory, executive control, and default mode network. Furthermore, we found that working memory and response inhibition only associated with regional functional connectivity, but not topological organization (i.e., local and global efficiency of information transfer) of these functional networks. Interestingly, functional connections associated with "bottom-up" as opposed to "top-down" processing were more clearly related to children's performance on working memory and response inhibition, implying an important role for brain systems involved in late childhood.

Keywords: cortical thickness; executive functioning; late childhood; resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply*
  • Cerebral Cortex / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Language
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / blood supply
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Regression Analysis

Substances

  • Oxygen