The self-concept – the set of beliefs that a person has about themselves – shows significant development from adolescence to early adulthood, in parallel with brain development over the same period. We sought to investigate how age-related changes in self-appraisal processes corresponded with brain network segregation and integration in healthy adolescents and young adults. We scanned 88 participants (46 female), aged from 15 to 25 years, as they performed a self-appraisal task. We first examined their patterns of activation to self-appraisal, and replicated prior reports of reduced dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activation with older age, with similar reductions in precuneus, right anterior insula/operculum, and a region extending from thalamus to striatum. We used independent component analysis to identify distinct anterior and posterior components of the default mode network (DMN), which were associated with the self-appraisal and rest-fixation parts of the task, respectively. Increasing age was associated with reduced functional connectivity between the two components. Finally, analyses of task-evoked interactions between pairs of nodes within the DMN identified a subnetwork that demonstrated reduced connectivity with increasing age. Decreased network integration within the DMN appears to be an important higher-order maturational process supporting the emerging adult self.
Davey, C. G., Fornito, A., Pujol, J., Breakspear, M., Schmaal, L., & Harrison, B. J. (2019). Neurodevelopmental correlates of the emerging adult self. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 36, . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2019.100626