Childhood is a critical period for the development of cognitive planning. There is a lack of knowledge on its neural mechanisms in children. This study aimed to examine cerebello-cortical and cortico-cortical functional connectivity in association with planning skills in 6-year-olds (n = 76). We identified the cerebello-cortical and cortico-cortical functional networks related to cognitive planning using activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis on existing functional imaging studies on spatial planning, and data-driven independent component analysis (ICA) of children's resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI). We investigated associations of cerebello-cortical and cortico-cortical functional connectivity with planning ability in 6-year-olds, as assessed using the Stockings of Cambridge task. Long-range functional connectivity of two cerebellar networks (lobules VI and lateral VIIa) with the prefrontal and premotor cortex were greater in children with poorer planning ability. In contrast, cortico-cortical association networks were not associated with the performance of planning in children. These results highlighted the key contribution of the lateral cerebello-frontal functional connectivity, but not cortico-cortical association functional connectivity, for planning ability in 6-year-olds. Our results suggested that brain adaptation to the acquisition of planning ability during childhood is partially achieved through the engagement of the cerebello-cortical functional connectivity.
Keywords: Activation likelihood estimation; Cerebellum; Cerebrum; Resting-state fMRI; Stockings of Cambridge; Tower of London.
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