Plasticity in Children

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Maturation, senescence, and learning mutually influence each other over time, resulting in unique individual trajectories of cognitive development across the human lifespan. Development during childhood and adolescence is characterized by substantial brain changes, reflecting the complex interplay between changes in white matter and gray matter integrity. The ongoing white and gray matter development is especially pronounced in frontal and parietal regions that support executive functioning and cognitive control. In parallel with these protracted maturational changes in brain structure and function, children's brains are highly malleable by experience, which can affect later cognitive and neural development. Thus, we seek to understand how the developing brain adapts to changing environmental influences during childhood and adolescence. Here, we are particularly interested in children's ability to effectively control learning and memory, and to flexibly regulate their thoughts and actions.

On the one hand, we aim to elucidate the age-graded differences in the progression of behavioural and neural plasticity, and the extent to which they depend on the maturity of the underlying brain networks. On the other hand, we examine how experience-induced brain changes affect long-term development in childhood and later adulthood. Some of the questions we are interested in include:

  • How do the mechanisms of plasticity differ between early and later childhood?
  • Does puberty affect behavioural and neural manifestations of plasticity?
  • In what ways do neural and behavioral changes following training affect later neurocognitive development?
  • Do they also have an impact on real-life outcomes such as academic achievement?
  • What neural and behavioral measures predict individual differences in learning and training benefit among children?

Recent Publications

Selmeczy, D., Fandakova, Y., Grimm, K. J., Bunge, S. A., & Ghetti, S. (2018). Longitudinal trajectories of hippocampal and prefrontal contributions to episodic retrieval: Effects of age and puberty. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2018.10.003

Fandakova, Y., Selmeczy, D., Leckey, S., Grimm, K. J., Wendelken, C., Bunge, S. A., & Ghetti, S. (2017). Changes in ventromedial prefrontal and insular cortex support the development of metamemory from childhood into adolescence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114, 7582–7587. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1703079114


Yana Fandakova
Ulman Lindenberger

Corinna Laube (postdoc)

Neda Khosravani (predoctoral fellow)

Anke Schepers-Klingebiel (research assistant)

Plasticity in Childhood


Wir looking for German-speaking children aged nine and ten years for participation in the FLEX Study! Go to the website for more information.

Maskottchen der FLEX-Studie

Key References

Fandakova, Y., & Bunge, S. A. (2016). What connections can we draw between research on long-term memory and student learning? Mind, Brain, and Education, 10, 135–142. https://doi.org/10.1111/ mbe.12123

Fandakova, Y., Bunge, S. A., Wendelken, C., Desautels, P., Hunter, L., Lee, J. K., & Ghetti, S. (2018). The importance of knowing when you don't remember: Neural signaling of retrieval failure predicts memory improvement over time. Cerebral Cortex, 28, 90–102. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/ bhw352

Fandakova, Y., Lindenberger, U., & Shing, Y. L. (2014). Deficits in process-specific prefrontal and hippocampal activations contribute to adult age differences in episodic memory interference. Cerebral Cortex, 24, 1832–1844. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/ bht034

Fandakova, Y., Shing, Y. L., & Lindenberger, U. (2013). Differences in binding and monitoring mechanisms contribute to lifespan age differences in false memory. Developmental Psychology, 49, 1822–1832. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031361