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A 4-Year Longitudinal Neuroimaging Study of Cognitive Control Using Latent Growth Modeling: Developmental Changes and Brain-Behavior Associations

Despite theoretical models suggesting developmental changes in neural substrates of cognitive control in adolescence, empirical research has rarely examined intraindividual changes in cognitive control-related brain activation using multi-wave multivariate longitudinal data. We used longitudinal repeated measures of brain activation and behavioral performance during the multi-source interference task (MSIT) from 167 adolescents (53% male) who were assessed annually over four years from ages 13 to 17 years. We applied latent growth modeling to delineate the pattern of brain activation changes over time and to examine longitudinal associations between brain activation and behavioral performance. We identified brain regions that showed differential change patterns: (1) the fronto-parietal regions that involved bilateral insula, bilateral middle frontal gyrus, left pre-supplementary motor area, left inferior parietal lobule, and right precuneus; and (2) the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) region. Longitudinal confirmatory factor analyses of the fronto-parietal regions revealed strong measurement invariance across time implying that multivariate functional magnetic resonance imaging data during cognitive control can be measured reliably over time. Latent basis growth models indicated that fronto-parietal activation decreased over time, whereas rACC activation increased over time. In addition, behavioral performance data, age-related improvement was indicated by a decreasing trajectory of intraindividual variability in response time across four years. Testing longitudinal brain-behavior associations using multivariate growth models revealed that better behavioral cognitive control was associated with lower fronto-parietal activation, but the change in behavioral performance was not related to the change in brain activation. The current findings suggest that reduced effects of cognitive interference indicated by fronto-parietal recruitment may be a marker of a maturing brain that underlies better cognitive control performance during adolescence.
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