Development of neural mechanisms of conflict and error processing during childhood: implications for self-regulation.
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SourceFrontiers in Psychology. Developmental Psychology - 2014 Vol. 5 art. 326
Regulation of thoughts and behavior requires attention, particularly when there is conflict between alternative responses or when errors are to be prevented or corrected. Conflict monitoring and error processing are functions of the executive attention network, a neurocognitive system that greatly matures during childhood. In this study, we examined the development of brain mechanisms underlying conflict and error processing with event-related potentials (ERPs), and explored the relationship between brain function and individual differences in the ability to self-regulate behavior. Three groups of children aged 4–6, 7–9, and 10–13 years, and a group of adults performed a child-friendly version of the flanker task while ERPs were registered. Marked developmental changes were observed in both conflict processing and brain reactions to errors. After controlling by age, higher self-regulation skills are associated with smaller amplitude of the conflict effect but greater amplitude of the error-related negativity. Additionally, we found that electrophysiological measures of conflict and error monitoring predict individual differences in impulsivity and the capacity to delay gratification. These findings inform of brain mechanisms underlying the development of cognitive control and self-regulation.