Development of attentional networks: An fMRI study with children and adults

Kerstin Konrad, Susanne Neufang, Christiane M. Thiel, Karsten Specht, Charlotte Hanisch, Jin Fan, Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann, Gereon R. Fink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

244 Scopus citations


Data on the development of the attentional systems remain scarce. We used structural and event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate differences in the neural mechanisms associated with alerting, reorienting, and executive control of attention between children (ages 8 to 12 years) and adults, while controlling for effects of performance and brain morphology. Behaviorally, children exhibited a numerically smaller alerting effect and significantly larger invalidity (reorienting) and interference (executive control of attention) effects. Neurally, children showed significantly reduced brain activation in a priori defined regions-of-interest in right-sided frontal-midbrain regions during alerting, in the right-sided temporo-parietal junction during reorienting of attention, and in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during executive control of attention. In addition, children activated significantly more brain regions outside the a priori defined regions-of-interest, such as the superior frontal gyrus during reorienting and the superior temporal gyrus during executive control of attention. Functional group differences overlapped with structural group differences in gray matter volume in particular within the frontopolar areas. The data suggest that there is a transition from functional yet immature systems supporting attentional functions in children to the more definitive adult networks and that the differences observed may reflect both developmental changes in cognitive strategies and morphology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-439
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2005


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