Anders M. Fjell, University of Oslo
Kristine Beate Walhovd, University of Oslo
Timothy T. Brown, University of California at San Diego
Joshua M. Kuperman, University of California at San Diego
Yoonho Chung, University of California at San Diego
Donald J. Hagler Jr., University of California at San Diego
Vijay Venkatraman, University of California at San Diego
J. Cooper Roddey, University of California at San Diego
Matthew Erhart, University of California at San Diego
Connor McCabe, University of California at San Diego
Natacha Akshoomoff, University of California at San Diego
David G. Amaral, University of California
Cinnamon S. Bloss, Scripps Translational Science Institute
Ondrej Libiger, Scripps Translational Science Institute
Burcu F. Darst, Scripps Translational Science Institute
Nicholas J. Schork, Scripps Translational Science Institute
B. J. Casey, Kennedy Krieger Institute
Linda Chang, University of Hawaii
Thomas M. Ernst, University of Hawaii
Jeffrey R. Gruen, Yale University School of Medicine
Walter E. Kaufmann, Harvard Medical School
Tal Kenet, Massachusetts General Hospital
Jean A. Frazier, University of Massachusetts Medical SchoolFollow
Sarah S. Murray, Scripps Translational Science Institute
Elizabeth R. Sowell, University of Southern California
Peter van Zijl, University of California at San Diego
Stewart Mostofsky, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Terry L. Jernigan, University of California at San Diego
Anders Dale, Massachusetts General Hospital

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Neuroimaging; Brain; Neuroanatomy; Social Control, Informal; Cognition


Nervous System | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


Self-regulation refers to the ability to control behavior, cognition, and emotions, and self-regulation failure is related to a range of neuropsychiatric problems. It is poorly understood how structural maturation of the brain brings about the gradual improvement in self-regulation during childhood. In a large-scale multicenter effort, 735 children (4-21 y) underwent structural MRI for quantification of cortical thickness and surface area and diffusion tensor imaging for quantification of the quality of major fiber connections. Brain development was related to a standardized measure of cognitive control (the flanker task from the National Institutes of Health Toolbox), a critical component of self-regulation. Ability to inhibit responses and impose cognitive control increased rapidly during preteen years. Surface area of the anterior cingulate cortex accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in cognitive performance. This finding is intriguing, because characteristics of the anterior cingulum are shown to be related to impulse, attention, and executive problems in neurodevelopmental disorders, indicating a neural foundation for self-regulation abilities along a continuum from normality to pathology. The relationship was strongest in the younger children. Properties of large-fiber connections added to the picture by explaining additional variance in cognitive control. Although cognitive control was related to surface area of the anterior cingulate independently of basic processes of mental speed, the relationship between white matter quality and cognitive control could be fully accounted for by speed. The results underscore the need for integration of different aspects of brain maturation to understand the foundations of cognitive development.

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DOI of Published Version



Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Nov 27;109(48):19620-19625. Epub 2012 Nov 12. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID




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