Optimization of energy state transition trajectory supports the development of executive function during youth


Executive function develops during adolescence, yet it remains unknown how structural brain networks mature to facilitate activation of the fronto-parietal system, which is critical for executive function. In a sample of 946 human youths (ages 8-23y) who completed diffusion imaging, we capitalized upon recent advances in linear dynamical network control theory to calculate the energetic cost necessary to activate the fronto-parietal system through the control of multiple brain regions given existing structural network topology. We found that the energy required to activate the fronto-parietal system declined with development, and the pattern of regional energetic cost predicts unseen individuals’ brain maturity. Finally, energetic requirements of the cingulate cortex were negatively correlated with executive performance, and partially mediated the development of executive performance with age. Our results reveal a mechanism by which structural networks develop during adolescence to reduce the theoretical energetic costs of transitions to activation states necessary for executive function.

eLife Sciences Publications