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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Changing brains: how longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging studies can inform us about cognitive and social‐affective growth trajectories

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Brain imaging studies have demonstrated widespread changes in brain networks which support cognitive and social‐affective development. These conclusions, however, are largely based on cross‐sectional comparisons, which limits the possibility to investigate growth trajectories and detect individual changes. Understanding individual growth patterns is crucial if we want to ultimately understand how brain development is sensitive to environmental influences such as educational or psychological interventions or childhood maltreatment. Recently, longitudinal brain imaging studies in children and adolescents have taken the first steps into examining cognitive and social‐affective brain functions longitudinally with several compelling findings. First, longitudinal measurements show that activations in some brain regions, such as the prefrontal, temporal, and parietal cortex, are relatively stable over time and can be used as predictors for cognitive functions, whereas activations in other brain regions, such as the amygdala and ventral striatum, are much more variable over time. Second, developmental studies reveal how these changes are related to age, puberty, and changes in performance. These findings have implications for understanding how environmental factors influence brain development. An important future direction will be to examine individual characteristics (e.g., genetic, temperamental, personality) which make individuals differentially susceptible to their environment. WIREs Cogn Sci 2015, 6:53–63. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1327 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Brain Function and Dysfunction Psychology > Development and Aging Neuroscience > Cognition
Examples of longitudinal brain patterns. Neural changes can be characterized by the absence or presence of time/age‐related changes, and the absence or presence of stability over time.
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Longitudinal brain activity when receiving rewards. (a) The bilateral ventral striatum, medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), and precuneus were more active when receiving rewards relative to losses in a gambling task. (b) Longitudinal change in brain activity following rewards was correlated with longitudinal change in fun‐seeking.
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Longitudinal brain activity during performance monitoring. (a) A set of lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) and parietal cortex regions was more active when processing feedback signaling a rule shift in comparison with positive feedback, at both the first and the second time point. (b) Performance increased rapidly in childhood and early adolescence after which it stabilized. (c) Brain activity in lateral PFC was correlated with performance changes over time.
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Psychology > Development and Aging
Psychology > Brain Function and Dysfunction
Neuroscience > Cognition

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