Maturation of cognitive control: delineating response inhibition and interference suppression

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 23;8(7):e69826. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069826. Print 2013.


Cognitive control is integral to the ability to attend to a relevant task whilst suppressing distracting information or inhibiting prepotent responses. The current study examined the development of these two subprocesses by examining electrophysiological indices elicited during each process. Thirteen 18 year-old adults and thirteen children aged 8-11 years (mean=9.77 years) completed a hybrid Go/Nogo flanker task while continuous EEG data were recorded. The N2 topography for both response inhibition and interference suppression changed with increasing age. The neural activation associated with response inhibition became increasingly frontally distributed with age, and showed decreases of both amplitude and peak latency from childhood to adulthood, possibly due to reduced cognitive demands and myelination respectively occurring during this period. Interestingly, a significant N2 effect was apparent in adults, but not observed in children during trials requiring interference suppression. This could be due to more diffuse activation in children, which would require smaller levels of activation over a larger region of the brain than is reported in adults. Overall, these results provide evidence of distinct maturational processes occurring throughout late childhood and adolescence, highlighting the separability of response inhibition and interference suppression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time

Grant support

Funding support was provided for by an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship for Christopher Brydges. The child research was supported by grants from Princess Margaret Hospital grant EP1910 and the Channel 7-Telethon Trust. The adult research was funded by the School of Psychology at the University of Western Australia. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.