Plasticity in Children

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?
FLEX Study
In the FLEX Study we examine children's abilities to learn, concentrate, and memorize in order to understand basic processes of learning. Please go to the German site for more information: more

Selected Publications

Schwarze, S. A., Laube, C., Khosravani, N., Lindenberger, U., Bunge, S. A., & Fandakova, Y. (2023). Does prefrontal connectivity during task switching help or hinder children’s performance? Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 60, Article 101217.
Broeker, L., Brüning, J., Fandakova, Y., Khosravani, N., Kiesel, A., Kubik, V., Kübler, S., Manzey, D., Monno, I., Raab, M., & Schubert, T. (2022). Individual differences fill the uncharted intersections between cognitive structure, flexibility, and plasticity in multitasking. Psychological Review, 129(6), 1486–1494.
Gruber, M. J., & Fandakova, Y. (2021). Curiosity in childhood and adolescence: What can we learn from the brain. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 39, 178–184.
Schwarze, S. A., Poppa, C., Gawronska, S. M., & Fandakova, Y. (2021). The more, the merrier? What happens in your brain when you are multitasking? Frontiers for Young Minds, 9, Article 584481.
Ghetti, S., & Fandakova, Y. (2020). Neural development of memory and metamemory in childhood and adolescence: Toward an integrative model of the development of episodic recollection. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology, 2, 365–388.
Laube, C., van den Bos, W., & Fandakova, Y. (2020). The relationship between pubertal hormones and brain plasticity: Implications for cognitive training in adolescence. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 42, Article 100753.
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(29), 7582–7587.
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