Publication Date

2016-11-10

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2018-11-10

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2016-10-20

First Committee Member

Lucina Q. Uddin

Second Committee Member

Jennifer C. Britton

Third Committee Member

Anthony S. Dick

Abstract

One aspect of executive function, cognitive flexibility, is necessary for implementing the appropriate and efficient adaptation of cognitions in the face of changing environments. In a recently proposed framework, cognitive flexibility is thought to involve multiple component functions: stimulus-driven attention and two related executive functions, working memory and inhibition. These executive functions commonly recruit the frontal, cingulate, and parietal brain regions, but it is unclear whether cognitive flexibility and its component functions arise from specific connectivity profiles within this superordinate fronto-cingulo-parietal network. The objectives of this study were to 1) index behavioral changes in attention, working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility across the lifespan (ages 8 to 83 years) in a cross-sectional sample, 2) delineate brain connectivity profiles unique to attention, working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility, and 3) characterize the neural correlates of attention, working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility in typically developing children and adolescents. Comparisons of brain networks across a continuum of ages between childhood and adulthood (8-50 years) was conducted to determine whether the development of cognitive flexibility arises from a linear increase in connectivity among nodes, or a qualitative shift in the specific nodes used to successfully implement cognitive flexibility. In general, we found that cognitive performance declined with age. We identified brain circuits that relate to processes unique to attention and inhibition in adults, and demonstrate that these brain circuits change with age. However, brain circuits specifically related to working memory and cognitive flexibility were not identified. These results emphasize that the neural correlates of attention and inhibition in adults do not extend to children, and future work should aim to delineate the neural correlates of specific attentional and executive functions in children and adolescents.

Keywords

cognitive flexibility; executive function; development; aging; functional connectivity

Available for download on Saturday, November 10, 2018

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