Electrophysiological and behavioral indices of cognitive conflict processing across adolescence

Cognitive control enables goal-oriented adaptation to a fast-changing environment and has a protracted development spanning into young adulthood.


The neurocognitive processes underlying this development are poorly understood. In a cross-sectional sample of participants 8–19 years old (n = 108), we used blind source separation of EEG data recorded in a Flanker task to derive electrophysiological measures of attention and conflict processing, including a N2-like frontal negative component and a P3-like parietal positive component. Outside the recording session, we examined multiple behavioral measures of interference control derived from the Flanker, Stroop, and Anti-saccade tasks. We found a positive association between age and P3 amplitude, but no relationship between age and N2 amplitude. A stronger N2 was age-independently related to better performance on Stroop and Anti-saccade measures of interference control. A Gratton effect was found on the Flanker task, with slower reaction times on current congruent and better accuracy on current incongruent trials when preceded by incongruent as opposed to congruent trials. The Gratton effect on accuracy was positively associated with age. Together, the findings suggest a multifaceted developmental pattern of the neurocognitive processes involved in conflict processing across adolescence, with a more protracted development of the P3 compared to the N2.

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2021, 48, doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2021.100929

Published Mar. 1, 2021 6:00 AM