Dev Cogn Neurosci [journal]
- The neural substrates of cognitive flexibility are related to individual differences in preschool irritability: A fNIRS investigation. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Aug 4.
Preschool (age 3-5) is a phase of rapid development in both cognition and emotion, making this a period in which the neurodevelopment of each domain is particularly sensitive to that of the other. During this period, children rapidly learn how to flexibly shift their attention between competing demands and, at the same time, acquire critical emotion regulation skills to respond to negative affective challenges. The integration of cognitive flexibility and individual differences in irritability may be an important developmental process of early childhood maturation. However, at present it is unclear if they share common neural substrates in early childhood. Our main goal was to examine the neural correlates of cognitive flexibility in preschool children and test for associations with irritability. Forty-six preschool aged children completed a novel, child-appropriate, Stroop task while dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activation was recorded using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). Parents rated their child's irritability. Results indicated that left DLPFC activation was associated with cognitive flexibility and positively correlated with irritability. Right DLPFC activation was also positively correlated with irritability. Results suggest the entwined nature of cognitive and emotional neurodevelopment during a developmental period of rapid and mutual acceleration.
- Neural correlates of accelerated auditory processing in children engaged in music training. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Apr 16.:1-14.
Several studies comparing adult musicians and non-musicians have shown that music training is associated with brain differences. It is unknown, however, whether these differences result from lengthy musical training, from pre-existing biological traits, or from social factors favoring musicality. As part of an ongoing 5-year longitudinal study, we investigated the effects of a music training program on the auditory development of children, over the course of two years, beginning at age 6-7. The training was group-based and inspired by El-Sistema. We compared the children in the music group with two comparison groups of children of the same socio-economic background, one involved in sports training, another not involved in any systematic training. Prior to participating, children who began training in music did not differ from those in the comparison groups in any of the assessed measures. After two years, we now observe that children in the music group, but not in the two comparison groups, show an enhanced ability to detect changes in tonal environment and an accelerated maturity of auditory processing as measured by cortical auditory evoked potentials to musical notes. Our results suggest that music training may result in stimulus specific brain changes in school aged children.
- The transition from childhood to adolescence is marked by a general decrease in amygdala reactivity and an affect-specific ventral-to-dorsal shift in medial prefrontal recruitment. [JOURNAL ARTICLE]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Jul 2.
Understanding how and why affective responses change with age is central to characterizing typical and atypical emotional development. Prior work has emphasized the role of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex (PFC), which show age-related changes in function and connectivity. However, developmental neuroimaging research has only recently begun to unpack whether age effects in the amygdala and PFC are specific to affective stimuli or may be found for neutral stimuli as well, a possibility that would support a general, rather than affect-specific, account of amygdala-PFC development. To examine this, 112 individuals ranging from 6 to 23 years of age viewed aversive and neutral images while undergoing fMRI scanning. Across age, participants reported more negative affect and showed greater amygdala responses for aversive than neutral stimuli. However, children were generally more sensitive to both neutral and aversive stimuli, as indexed by affective reports and amygdala responses. At the same time, the transition from childhood to adolescence was marked by a ventral-to-dorsal shift in medial prefrontal responses to aversive, but not neutral, stimuli. Given the role that dmPFC plays in executive control and higher-level representations of emotion, these results suggest that adolescence is characterized by a shift towards representing emotional events in increasingly cognitive terms.
- Neural activation patterns of successful episodic encoding: Reorganization during childhood, maintenance in old age. [Journal Article]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Aug.:59-69.
The two-component framework of episodic memory (EM) development posits that the contributions of medial temporal lobe (MTL) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) to successful encoding differ across the lifespan. To test the framework's hypotheses, we compared subsequent memory effects (SME) of 10-12 year-old children, younger adults, and older adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Memory was probed by cued recall, and SME were defined as regional activation differences during encoding between subsequently correctly recalled versus omitted items. In MTL areas, children's SME did not differ in magnitude from those of younger and older adults. In contrast, children's SME in PFC were weaker than the corresponding SME in younger and older adults, in line with the hypothesis that PFC contributes less to successful encoding in childhood. Differences in SME between younger and older adults were negligible. The present results suggest that, among individuals with high memory functioning, the neural circuitry contributing to successful episodic encoding is reorganized from middle childhood to adulthood. Successful episodic encoding in later adulthood, however, is characterized by the ability to maintain the activation patterns that emerged in young adulthood.
- Aerobic fitness is associated with greater hippocampal cerebral blood flow in children. [Journal Article]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Aug.:52-8.
The present study is the first to investigate whether cerebral blood flow in the hippocampus relates to aerobic fitness in children. In particular, we used arterial spin labeling (ASL) perfusion MRI to provide a quantitative measure of blood flow in the hippocampus in 73 7- to 9-year-old preadolescent children. Indeed, aerobic fitness was found to relate to greater perfusion in the hippocampus, independent of age, sex, and hippocampal volume. Such results suggest improved microcirculation and cerebral vasculature in preadolescent children with higher levels of aerobic fitness. Further, aerobic fitness may influence how the brain regulates its metabolic demands via blood flow in a region of the brain important for learning and memory. To add specificity to the relationship of fitness to the hippocampus, we demonstrate no significant association between aerobic fitness and cerebral blood flow in the brainstem. Our results reinforce the importance of aerobic fitness during a critical period of child development.
- Behavior and neuroimaging at baseline predict individual response to combined mathematical and working memory training in children. [Journal Article]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Aug.:43-51.
Mathematical performance is highly correlated with several general cognitive abilities, including working memory (WM) capacity. Here we investigated the effect of numerical training using a number-line (NLT), WM training (WMT), or the combination of the two on a composite score of mathematical ability. The aim was to investigate if the combination contributed to the outcome, and determine if baseline performance or neuroimaging predict the magnitude of improvement. We randomly assigned 308, 6-year-old children to WMT, NLT, WMT+NLT or a control intervention. Overall, there was a significant effect of NLT but not WMT. The WMT+NLT was the only group that improved significantly more than the controls, although the interaction NLTxWM was non-significant. Higher WM and maths performance predicted larger benefits for WMT and NLT, respectively. Neuroimaging at baseline also contributed significant information about training gain. Different individuals showed as much as a three-fold difference in their responses to the same intervention. These results show that the impact of an intervention is highly dependent on individual characteristics of the child. If differences in responses could be used to optimize the intervention for each child, future interventions could be substantially more effective.
- Negative functional coupling between the right fronto-parietal and limbic resting state networks predicts increased self-control and later substance use onset in adolescence. [Journal Article]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Aug.:35-42.
Recent developmental brain imaging studies have demonstrated that negatively coupled prefrontal-limbic circuitry implicates the maturation of brain development in adolescents. Using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) and independent component analysis (ICA), the present study examined functional network coupling between prefrontal and limbic systems and links to self-control and substance use onset in adolescents. Results suggest that negative network coupling (anti-correlated temporal dynamics) between the right fronto-parietal and limbic resting state networks is associated with greater self-control and later substance use onset in adolescents. These findings increase our understanding of the developmental importance of prefrontal-limbic circuitry for adolescent substance use at the resting-state network level.
- Auditory discrimination predicts linguistic outcome in Italian infants with and without familial risk for language learning impairment. [Journal Article]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Aug.:23-34.
Infants' ability to discriminate between auditory stimuli presented in rapid succession and differing in fundamental frequency (Rapid Auditory Processing [RAP] abilities) has been shown to be anomalous in infants at familial risk for Language Learning Impairment (LLI) and to predict later language outcomes. This study represents the first attempt to investigate RAP in Italian infants at risk for LLI (FH+), examining two critical acoustic features: frequency and duration, both embedded in a rapidly-presented acoustic environment. RAP skills of 24 FH+ and 32 control (FH-) Italian 6-month-old infants were characterized via EEG/ERP using a multi-feature oddball paradigm. Outcome measures of expressive vocabulary were collected at 20 months. Group differences favoring FH- infants were identified: in FH+ infants, the latency of the N2* peak was delayed and the mean amplitude of the positive mismatch response was reduced, primarily for frequency discrimination and within the right hemisphere. Moreover, both EEG measures were correlated with language scores at 20 months. Results indicate that RAP abilities are atypical in Italian infants with a first-degree relative affected by LLI and that this impacts later linguistic skills. These findings provide a compelling cross-linguistic comparison with previous research on American infants, supporting the biological unity hypothesis of LLI.
- Impairment on a self-ordered working memory task in patients with early-acquired hippocampal atrophy. [Journal Article]
- Dev Cogn Neurosci 2016 Aug.:12-22.
One of the features of both adult-onset and developmental forms of amnesia resulting from bilateral medial temporal lobe damage, or even from relatively selective damage to the hippocampus, is the sparing of working memory. Recently, however, a number of studies have reported deficits on working memory tasks in patients with damage to the hippocampus and in macaque monkeys with neonatal hippocampal lesions. These studies suggest that successful performance on working memory tasks with high memory load require the contribution of the hippocampus. Here we compared performance on a working memory task (the Self-ordered Pointing Task), between patients with early onset hippocampal damage and a group of healthy controls. Consistent with the findings in the monkeys with neonatal lesions, we found that the patients were impaired on the task, but only on blocks of trials with intermediate memory load. Importantly, only intermediate to high memory load blocks yielded significant correlations between task performance and hippocampal volume. Additionally, we found no evidence of proactive interference in either group, and no evidence of an effect of time since injury on performance. We discuss the role of the hippocampus and its interactions with the prefrontal cortex in serving working memory.