Brain activity related to working memory and distraction in children and adults

Pernille J. Olesen, Julian Macoveanu, Jesper Tegnér, Torkel Klingberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


In order to retain information in working memory (WM) during a delay, distracting stimuli must be ignored. This important ability improves during childhood, but the neural basis for this development is not known. We measured brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging in adults and 13-year-old children. Data were analyzed with an event-related design to isolate activity during cue, delay, distraction, and response selection. Adults were more accurate and less distractible than children. Activity in the middle frontal gyrus and intraparietal cortex was stronger in adults than in children during the delay, when information was maintained in WM. Distraction during the delay evoked activation in parietal and occipital cortices in both adults and children. However, distraction activated frontal cortex only in children. The larger frontal activation in response to distracters presented during the delay may explain why children are more susceptible to interfering stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1047-1054
Number of pages8
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Development
  • Dorsolateral
  • Event related
  • Prefrontal
  • Visuospatial
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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