NeuroImage (2020-02-01)

Modular segregation of task-dependent brain networks contributes to the development of executive function in children

  • Chunjie Wang,
  • Yuzheng Hu,
  • Jian Weng,
  • Feiyan Chen,
  • Huafeng Liu

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 206
p. 116334

Abstract

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Executive function (EF) refers as to a set of high-level cognitive abilities that are critical to many aspects of daily life. Despite its importance in human daily life, the neural networks responsible for the development of EF in childhood are not well understood. The present study thus aimed to examine the development of task-dependent brain network organization and its relationship to age-related improvements in EF. To address this issue, we recruited eighty-eight Chinese children ranging in age from 7 to 12 years old, and collected their functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data when they performed an EF task. By utilizing graph theory, we found that the task-dependent brain network modules became increasingly segregated with age. Specifically, the intra-module connections within the default-mode network (DMN), frontal-parietal network (FPN) and sensorimotor network (SMN) increased significantly with age. In contrast, the inter-module connections of the visual network to both the FPN/SMN decreased significantly with age. Most importantly, modular segregation of the FPN significantly mediated the relationship between age and EF performance. These findings add to our growing understanding of how development changes in task-dependent brain network organization support vast behavioral improvements in EF observed during childhood.

Keywords