abstract Duncan Astle

Duncan Astle (University of Cambridge, UK)

Studying the neural mechanisms of attention and memory in childhood

Attentional or cognitive control enables us to regulate and optimise our cognition and behaviour. These mechanisms are critical in childhood, because they support children’s ability to learn and are impaired in neurodevelopmental disorders. These control mechanisms are heavily dependent upon co-ordinated activity across distributed brain areas (termed functional connectivity), that integrates information about evolving task goals with relevant sensory input or motor output. It is fundamentally important that we understand how dynamic patterns of neural activity are coordinated across brain areas, because of its critical role in cognition. As yet, however, we know little about these underlying neural mechanisms or their developmental courses. We know even less about the sources of variation in control mechanisms, the extent to which they can underlie developmental disorders, or the possibilities of their modification through intervention. I will present data in which we use the dynamic electrical activity recorded using MEG to explore the underlying neurophysiological basis of functional connectivity in childhood, the extent to which it underpins differences in working memory capacity across children and whether these mechanisms can be augmented by targeted interventions.