Age-related cognitive gains are mediated by the effects of white matter development on brain network integration

Michael C. Stevens, Pawel Skudlarski, Godfrey D. Pearlson, Vince D. Calhoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


A fundamental, yet rarely tested premise of developmental cognitive neuroscience is that changes in brain activity and improvements in behavioral control across adolescent development are related to brain maturational factors that shape a more efficient, highly-interconnected brain in adulthood. We present the first multimodal neuroimaging study to empirically demonstrate that maturation of executive cognitive ability is directly associated with the relationship of white matter development and age-related changes in neural network functional integration. In this study, we identified specific white matter regions whose maturation across adolescence appears to reduce reliance on local processing in brain regions recruited for conscious, deliberate cognitive control in favor of a more widely distributed profile of functionally-integrated brain activity. Greater white matter coherence with age was associated with both increases and decreases in functional connectivity within task-engaged functional circuits. Importantly, these associations between white matter development and brain system functional integration were related to behavioral performance on tests of response inhibition, demonstrating their importance in the maturation of optimal cognitive control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-746
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Connectivity
  • Development
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Network
  • Response inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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