Neural dynamics of verbal working memory processing in children and adolescents.

Affiliation

Department of Neurological Sciences, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA; Center for Magnetoencephalography, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Development of cognitive functions and the underlying neurophysiology is evident throughout childhood and adolescence, with higher order processes such as working memory (WM) being some of the last cognitive faculties to fully mature. Previous functional neuroimaging studies of the neurodevelopment of WM have largely focused on overall regional activity levels rather than the temporal dynamics of neural component recruitment. In this study, we used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to examine the neural dynamics of WM in a large cohort of children and adolescents who were performing a high-load, modified verbal Sternberg WM task. Consistent with previous studies in adults, our findings indicated left-lateralized activity throughout the task period, beginning in the occipital cortices and spreading anterior to include temporal and prefrontal cortices during later encoding and into maintenance. During maintenance, the occipital alpha increase that has been widely reported in adults was found to be relatively weak in this developmental sample, suggesting continuing development of this component of neural processing, which was supported by correlational analyses. Intriguingly, we also found sex-specific developmental effects in alpha responses in the right inferior frontal region during encoding and in parietal and occipital cortices during maintenance. These findings suggested a developmental divergence between males and females in the maturation of neural circuitry serving WM during the transition from childhood to adolescence.

Keywords

Alpha,Dev-CoG,MEG,Neuroimaging,Oscillations,Working memory,