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Development of cognitive flexibility in late adolescence: investigating behavioral performance and neural activation in a task-switching paradigm

Lazzaro, Sair (2018) Development of cognitive flexibility in late adolescence: investigating behavioral performance and neural activation in a task-switching paradigm. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Successful cognitive control relies on both the ability to instantiate higher-order cognitive functions and the ability to flexibly switch between them in service of changing task demands, i.e. cognitive flexibility. While a wealth of important work on the development of cognitive control in adolescence has focused on the development of executive functions, there has been a relative lack of work on the development of cognitive flexibility. Here we address this limitation by investigating the development of cognitive flexibility using a task-switching paradigm in a large sample of adolescents and young adults (ages 14-32, n = 82). For a subset of subjects that had usable fMRI data (n=56), we assessed task-switching performance and analyzed fMRI data collected in-scanner while they performed the task-switching paradigm. We observed that successful task-switching was associated with widespread activation of frontoparietal and visual processing brain areas. A component of this larger task-switching system, the left inferior parietal cortex, showed age-related reductions in neural activation specifically during task-switching into trials that taxed inhibitory control. These neural findings occurred in parallel with age-related improvements in successful task-switching performance in the same context. This pattern of results suggests that task-switching into the most cognitively demanding contexts follows a protracted development that extends through adolescence and young adulthood. Further, the age-related reduction in parietal cortex activation suggests that adolescents have greater reliance on the frontoparietal system, which has been implicated in transient aspects of cognitive control, to achieve adult-like performance. Taken together, our results suggest that a key aspect of cognitive maturation in adulthood is the ability to flexibly switch between cognitive tasks with limited cost to performance and a decreasing reliance on frontoparietal regions across adolescence.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lazzaro, Sairskl15@pitt.eduskl15
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorLuna,
Committee ChairLibertus,
Committee MemberHanson,
Committee MemberRoth,
Date: 25 April 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 April 2018
Approval Date: 25 April 2018
Submission Date: 19 April 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 33
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: development, cognitive development, task-switching, adolescence
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2018 17:31
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2023 16:02


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