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Our ability to hold information in mind is limited, requires a high degree of cognitive control, and is necessary for many subsequent cognitive processes. Children, in particular, are highly variable in how, trial-by-trial, they manage to recruit cognitive control in service of memory. Fronto-parietal networks, typically recruited under conditions where this cognitive control is needed, undergo protracted development. We explored, for the first time, whether dynamic changes in fronto-parietal activity could account for children's variability in tests of visual short-term memory (VSTM). We recorded oscillatory brain activity using magnetoencephalography (MEG) as 9- to 12-year-old children and adults performed a VSTM task. We combined temporal independent component analysis (ICA) with general linear modeling to test whether the strength of fronto-parietal activity correlated with VSTM performance on a trial-by-trial basis. In children, but not adults, slow frequency theta (4-7 Hz) activity within a right lateralized fronto-parietal network in anticipation of the memoranda predicted the accuracy with which those memory items were subsequently retrieved. These findings suggest that inconsistent use of anticipatory control mechanism contributes significantly to trial-to-trial variability in VSTM maintenance performance.

Original publication




Journal article


Cereb Cortex

Publication Date





3868 - 3876


cognitive control, cognitive development, development, executive control, magnetoencephalography, Adult, Brain Waves, Child, Female, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Magnetoencephalography, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Nerve Net, Parietal Lobe, Young Adult