Behavioral and Neural Signatures of Working Memory in Childhood

Monica D. Rosenberg, Steven A. Martinez, Kristina M. Rapuano, May I. Conley, Alexandra O. Cohen, M. Daniela Cornejo, Donald J. Hagler, Wesley J. Meredith, Kevin M. Anderson, Tor D. Wager, Eric Feczko, Eric Earl, Damien A. Fair, Deanna M. Barch, Richard Watts, B. J. Casey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Working memory function changes across development and varies across individuals. The patterns of behavior and brain function that track individual differences in working memory during human development, however, are not well understood. Here, we establish associations between working memory, other cognitive abilities, and functional MRI (fMRI) activation in data from over 11,500 9- to 10-year-old children (both sexes) enrolled in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, an ongoing longitudinal study in the United States. Behavioral analyses reveal robust relationships between working memory, short-term memory, language skills, and fluid intelligence. Analyses relating out-of-scanner working memory performance to memory-related fMRI activation in an emotional n-back task demonstrate that frontoparietal activity during a working memory challenge indexes working memory performance. This relationship is domain specific, such that fMRI activation related to emotion processing during the emotional n-back task, inhibitory control during a stop-signal task (SST), and reward processing during a monetary incentive delay (MID) task does not track memory abilities. Together, these results inform our understanding of individual differences in working memory in childhood and lay the groundwork for characterizing the ways in which they change across adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5090-5104
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 24 2020


  • Development
  • FMRI
  • Frontoparietal
  • N-back
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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