Neurodevelopmental shifts in learned value transfer on cognitive control during adolescence.

Published Date: 
December 1, 2019

Insel C, Charifson M, Somerville LH.

Value-associated cues in the environment often enhance subsequent goal-directed behaviors in adults, a phenomenon supported by the integration of motivational and cognitive neural systems. Given that the interactions among these systems change throughout adolescence, we tested when the beneficial effects of value associations on subsequent cognitive control performance emerge during adolescence. Participants (N = 81) aged 13–20 completed a reinforcement learning task with four cue-incentive pairings that could yield high gain, low gain, high loss, or low loss outcomes. Next, participants completed a Go/NoGo task during fMRI where the NoGo targets comprised the previously learned cues, which tested how prior value associations influence cognitive control performance. Improved accuracy for previously learned high gain relative to low gain cues emerged with age. Older adolescents exhibited enhanced recruitment of the dorsal striatum and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex during cognitive control execution to previously learned high gain relative to low gain cues. Older adolescents also expressed increased coupling between the dorsal striatum and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for high gain cues, whereas younger adolescents expressed increased coupling between the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These findings reveal that learned high value cue-incentive associations enhance cognitive control in late adolescence in parallel with value-selective recruitment of corticostriatal systems.