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Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Non-linear changes in behaviour and in brain activity during adolescent development have been reported in a variety of cognitive tasks. These developmental changes are often interpreted as being a consequence of changes in brain structure, including non-linear changes in grey matter volumes, which occur during adolescence. However, very few studies have attempted to combine behavioural, functional and structural data. This multi-method approach is the one we took in the current study, which was designed to investigate developmental changes in behaviour and brain activity during relational reasoning, the simultaneous integration of multiple relations. We used a relational reasoning task known to recruit rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC), a region that undergoes substantial structural changes during adolescence. The task was administered to female participants in a behavioural (N = 178, 7-27 years) and an fMRI study (N = 37, 11-30 years). Non-linear changes in accuracy were observed, with poorer performance during mid-adolescence. fMRI and VBM results revealed a complex picture of linear and possibly non-linear changes with age. Performance and structural changes partly accounted for changes with age in RLPFC and medial superior frontal gyrus activity but not for a decrease in activation in the anterior insula/frontal operculum between mid-adolescence and adulthood. These functional changes might instead reflect the maturation of neurocognitive strategies.