Neural substrates of the executive function construct, age-related changes, and task materials in adolescents and adults: ALE meta-analyses of 408 fMRI studies

Zheng Zhang, Peng Peng, Simon B. Eickhoff, Xin Lin, Delong Zhang, Yingying Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

To explore the neural substrates of executive function (EF), we conducted an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis of 408 functional magnetic resonance imaging studies (9639 participants, 7587 activation foci, 518 experimental contrasts) covering three fundamental EF subcomponents: inhibition, switching, and working memory. Our results found that activation common to all three EF subcomponents converged in the multiple-demand network across adolescence and adulthood. The function of EF with the multiple-demand network involved, especially for the prefrontal cortex and the parietal regions, could not be mature until adulthood. In adolescents, only working memory could be separable from common EF, whereas in adults, the three EF subcomponents could be separable from common EF. However, findings of switching in adolescents should be treated with substantial caution and may be exploratory due to limited data available on switching tasks. For task materials, inhibition and working memory showed both domain generality and domain specificity, undergirded by the multiple-demand network, as well as different brain regions in response to verbal and nonverbal task materials, respectively. In contrast, switching showed only domain generality with no activation specialized for either verbal or nonverbal task materials. These findings, taken together, support and contribute to the unitary–diverse nature of EF such that EF should be interpreted in an integrative model that relies on the integration of the EF construct, development, and task materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopmental Science
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • ALE meta-analysis
  • development
  • domain-general
  • domain-specific
  • executive function
  • integrative model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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