What have we learned about cognitive development from neuroimaging?
Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Changes in many domains of cognition occur with development. In this paper, we discuss neuroimaging approaches to understanding these changes at a neural level. We highlight how modern imaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) are being used to examine how cognitive development is supported by the maturation of the brain. Some reports suggest developmental changes in patterns of brain activity appear to involve a shift from diffuse to more focal activation, likely representing a fine-tuning of relevant neural systems with experience. One of the challenges in investigating the interplay between cognitive development and maturation of the brain is to separate the contributions of neural changes specific to development and learning. Examples are given from the developmental neuroimaging literature. The focus is on the development of cognitive control, as the protracted developmental course of this ability into adolescence raises key issues. Finally, the relevance of normative studies for understanding neural and cognitive changes in developmental disorders is discussed.