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Front. Behav. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00218

Novelty N2-P3a complex and theta oscillations reflect improving neural coordination within frontal brain networks during adolescence

  • 1University of Bremen, Germany
  • 2İzmir University of Economics, Turkey

Adolescents are easier distracted by novel items than adults. Maturation of the frontal cortex and its integration into widely distributed brain networks may result in diminishing distractibility with the transition into young adulthood. The aim of this study was to investigate maturational changes of brain activity during novelty processing. We hypothesized that during adolescence, timing and task-relevant modulation of frontal cortex network activity elicited by novelty processing improves, concurrently with increasing cognitive control abilities.
A visual novelty oddball task was utilized in combination with EEG measurements to investigate brain maturation between 8 to 28 years of age (n = 84). Developmental changes of the frontal N2-P3a complex and concurrent theta oscillations (4–7 Hz) elicited by rare and unexpected novel stimuli were analyzed using regression models. N2 amplitude decreased, P3a amplitude increased, and latency of both components decreased with age. Pre-stimulus amplitude of theta oscillations decreased, while inter-trial consistency, task-related amplitude modulation and inter-site connectivity of frontal theta oscillations increased with age. Targets, intertwined in a stimulus train with regular non-targets and novels, were detected faster with increasing age.
These results indicate that neural processing of novel stimuli became faster and the neural activation pattern more precise in timing and amplitude modulation. Better inter-site connectivity further implicates that frontal brain maturation leads to global neural reorganization and better integration of frontal brain activity within widely distributed brain networks. Faster target detection indicated that these maturational changes in neural activation during novelty processing may result in diminished distractibility and increased cognitive control to pursue the task.

Keywords: maturation, adolescence, novelty, cognitive control, P3a, N2, theta oscillations, frontal brain network

Received: 16 Jul 2018; Accepted: 29 Aug 2018.

Edited by:

Bahar Güntekin, School of International Medicine, Istanbul Medipol University, Turkey

Reviewed by:

Philipp Ruhnau, Medizinische Fakultät, Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg, Germany
Gennady Knyazev, State Scientific-Research Institute of Physiology & Basic Medicine, Russia  

Copyright: © 2018 Wienke, Basar-Eroglu, Schmiedt-Fehr and Mathes. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Birgit Mathes, University of Bremen, Bremen, 28359, Bremen, Germany, birgit.mathes@uni-bremen.de