Adolescent gender differences in cognitive control performance and functional connectivity between default mode and fronto-parietal networks within a self-referential context

Gabriela Alarcón, Jennifer H. Pfeifer, Damien Fair, Bonnie Nagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Ineffective reduction of functional connectivity between the default mode network (DMN) and frontoparietal network (FPN) during cognitive control can interfere with performance in healthy individuals—a phenomenon present in psychiatric disorders, such as depression. Here, this mechanism is studied in healthy adolescents by examining gender differences in task-regressed functional connectivity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a novel task designed to place the DMN—supporting self-referential processing (SRP)—and FPN—supporting cognitive control—into conflict. Compared to boys, girls showed stronger functional connectivity between DMN and FPN during cognitive control in an SRP context (n = 40; boys = 20), a context that also elicited more errors of omission in girls. The gender difference in errors of omission was mediated by higher self-reported co-rumination—the extensive and repetitive discussion of problems and focus on negative feelings with a same-gender peer—by girls, compared to boys. These findings indicate that placing internal and external attentional demands in conflict lead to persistent functional connectivity between FPN and DMN in girls, but not boys; however, deficits in performance during this context were explained by co-rumination, such that youth with higher co-rumination displayed the largest performance deficits. Previous research shows that co-rumination predicts depressive symptoms during adolescence; thus, gender differences in the mechanisms involved with transitioning from internal to external processing may be relevant for understanding heightened vulnerability for depression in adolescent girls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number73
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
StatePublished - Apr 23 2018



  • Adolescence
  • Co-rumination
  • Cognitive control
  • Default mode network
  • Fronto-parietal network
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Gender differences
  • Self-referential processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this