Summary: Maturation of brain networks in children was associated with improved inhibitory control, a new study reports.
As their brain regions linked to self-control mature, preschoolers improve in their ability to stop themselves from doing something, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience.
A component of self-control called inhibitory control doesn’t develop until around age 4. In adolescence and adulthood, inhibitory control stems from a group of brain regions called the cognitive control network, but how the ability develops in young children is not well known.
Berger et al. examined the maturation of brain regions in 3- and 4-year-old children using MRI and compared it with their inhibitory control abilities.
To test neutral inhibitory control, the researchers told the children to follow instructions from one sock puppet but ignore the instructions of another.
To test emotional inhibitory control, the researchers placed candy in front of the children and told them if they did not eat it now, they would get more later.
The 4-year-olds performed better at both tasks than the 3-year-olds. Children with better inhibitory control had larger brain regions and stronger white matter connections in the cognitive control network.
Each type of inhibitory control was tied to the maturation of distinct and separate regions in the network, indicating separate neural bases for different aspects of the development of inhibitory control.
About this neurodevelopment research news
Author: Calli McMurray Source: SfN Contact: Calli McMurray – SfN Image: The image is in the public domain
Maturational indices of the cognitive control network are associated with inhibitory control in early childhood
Goal-directed behavior crucially relies on our capacity to suppress impulses and predominant behavioral responses. This ability, called inhibitory control, emerges in early childhood with marked improvements between 3 and 4 years.
Here, we ask which brain structures are related to the emergence of this critical ability. Using a multimodal approach, we relate the pronounced behavioral improvements in different facets of 3-and 4-year-olds’ (N = 37, 20 female) inhibitory control to structural indices of maturation in the developing brain assessed with MRI.
Our results show that cortical and subcortical structure of core regions in the adult cognitive control network, including the PFC, thalamus, and the inferior parietal cortices, are associated with early inhibitory functioning in preschool children.
Probabilistic tractography revealed an association of frontoparietal (i.e., the superior longitudinal fascicle) and thalamocortical connections with early inhibitory control. Notably, these associations to brain structure were distinct for different facets of early inhibitory control, often referred to as motivational (‘hot’) and cognitive (‘cold’) inhibitory control.
Our findings thus reveal the structural brain networks and connectivity related to the emergence of this core faculty of human cognition.