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Weaker top-down modulation from the left inferior frontal gyrus in children


Bitan TTali , Burman DDDouglas D , Lu DDong , Cone NENadia E , Gitelman DRDarren R , Mesulam MMM-Marsel , Booth JRJames R . NeuroImage. 2006 09 15; 33(3). 991-8


Previous studies have shown that developmental changes in the structure and function of prefrontal regions can continue throughout childhood and adolescence. Our recent results suggested a role for the left inferior frontal cortex in modulating task-dependent shifts in effective connectivity when adults focus on orthographic versus phonological aspects of presented words. Specifically, the top-down influence of the inferior frontal cortex determined whether incoming word-form information from the fusiform gyrus would have a greater impact on the parietal areas involved in orthographic processing or temporal areas involved in phonological processing (Bitan, T., Booth, J.R., Choy, J., Burman, D.D., Gitelman, D.R. and Mesulam, M.-M., 2005. Shifts of Effective Connectivity within a Language Network during Rhyming and Spelling. J. Neurosci. 25, 5397-5403.). In the current study, we find that children displayed an identical pattern of task-dependent functional activations within this network. In comparison to adults, however, children had significantly weaker top-down modulatory influences emanating from the inferior frontal area. Adult language processing may thus involve greater top-down cognitive control compared to children, resulting in less interference from task-irrelevant information.