Early development of subcortical regions involved in non-cued attention switching
This study examined the cognitive and neural development of attention switching using a simple forced-choice attention task and functional magnetic resonance imaging Fourteen children and adults made discriminations among stimuli based on either shape or color. Performance on these trials was compared to performance during blocked trials requiring all color or all shape discriminations. Magnetic resonance echo planar images were acquired during performance of the task. Both children and adults showed robust bilateral activity of the caudate nucleus when switching attention between color and shape discriminations that correlated negatively with mean response latency on these trials. However, neither switching costs nor caudate activity correlated with age, suggesting early development of the underlying neural circuitry involved in switching between salient stimulus sets. Overall, children and adults differed in performance and patterns of brain activity on the task, with adults responding more accurately and faster than children, and recruiting more prefrontal and parietal regions. These results suggest an important role of subcortical regions (i.e. caudate nucleus) in non-cued attention switching, with increasing recruitment of cortical regions with age.