In Press

Achterberg, M., van Duijvenvoorde, A. C. K., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. & Crone, E. A. (in Press).
Longitudinal changes in DLPFC activation during childhood are related to decreased aggression following social rejection.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Regulating aggression after social feedback is an important prerequisite for developing and maintaining social relations, especially in the current times with larger emphasis on online social evaluation. Studies in adults highlighted the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in regulating aggression. Little is known about the development of aggression regulation following social feedback during childhood, while this is an important period for both brain maturation and social relations. The current study used a longitudinal design, with 456 twins undergoing two functional MRI sessions across the transition from middle (7 to 9 y) to late (9 to 11 y) childhood. Aggression regulation was studied using the Social Network Aggression Task. Behavioral aggression after social evaluation decreased over time, whereas activation in the insula, dorsomedial PFC and DLPFC increased over time. Brain–behavior analyses showed that increased DLPFC activation after negative feedback was associated with decreased aggression. Change analyses further revealed that children with larger increases in DLPFC activity from middle to late childhood showed stronger decreases in aggression over time. These findings provide insights into the development of social evaluation sensitivity and aggression control in childhood.


van de Groep, S., Zanolie, K., & Crone, E. A. (in press).
Familiarity and audience effects on giving: An fMRI study.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Giving is often characterized by the conflicting decision to give up something of value to benefit others. Recent evidence indicated that giving is highly context dependent. To unravel the neural correlates of social context, in this study young adults (N = 32) performed a novel giving fMRI paradigm, in which they divided coins between self and known others (friends) or unknown (unfamiliar) others. A second manipulation included presence of others; giving decisions were made with an audience or anonymously. Results showed that participants gave more coins to a friend than to an unfamiliar other, and generally gave more in the presence of an audience. On a neural level, medial prefrontal cortex and the right insula were most active for relatively generous decisions. These findings possibly reflect that aversion of norm deviation or fairness concerns drive differences in the frequency of giving. Next, activation in separate sub regions of the TPJIPL (i.e., a region that comprises the temporo-parietal junction and inferior parietal lobule) was found for target and audience contexts. Overall, our findings suggest that donation size and social contextual information are processed in separable brain regions and that TPJ-IPL plays an important role in balancing self- and other-oriented motives related to the social context.



Becht, A.I. & Mills, K. (2020).
Modeling Individual Differences in Brain Development.
Biological Psychiatry.

Within the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience, there is an increasing interest in studying individual differences in human brain development in order to predict mental health outcomes. So far, however, most longitudinal neuroimaging studies focus on group-level estimates. In this review, we highlight longitudinal neuroimaging studies that have moved beyond group-level estimates to illustrate the heterogeneity in patterns of brain development. We provide practical methodological recommendations on how longitudinal neuroimaging datasets can be used to understand heterogeneity in human brain development. Finally, we address how taking an individual-differences approach in developmental neuroimaging studies could advance our understanding of why some individuals develop mental health disorders.


Crone, E.A., & Fuligni, A.J. (2020).
Self and Others in Adolescence.
Annual Review in Psychology, 71, 447-469. 

Research has demonstrated that adolescence is an important time for self- and other-oriented development that underlies many skills vital for becoming a contributing member of society with healthy intergroup relations. It is often assumed that these two processes, thinking about self and thinking about others, are pitted against each other when adolescents engage in social decision making such as giving or sharing. Recent evidence from social neuroscience, however, does not support this notion of conflicting motives, suggesting instead that thinking about self and others relies on a common network of social-affective brain regions, with the medial prefrontal cortex playing a central role in the integration of perspectives related to self and others. Here, we argue that self- and other-oriented thinking are intertwined processes that rely on an overlapping neural network. Adolescents’ motivation to contribute to society can be fostered most when self- and other-oriented motives align.

DOI: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010419-050937

Aczel, B., Szaszi, B., Sarafoglou, A., …, Crone, E.A., …, Wagenmakers, E.J. (2020).
A consensus-based transparency checklist.
Nature Human Behavior, 4(1), 4-6.

We present a consensus-based checklist to improve and document the transparency of research reports in social and behavioural research. An accompanying online application allows users to complete the form and generate a report that they can submit with their manuscript or post to a public repository.

DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0772-6

Hoekzema, E., Tamnes, C.K., Berns, P., Barba-Müller, E., Pozzobon, C., Picado, M., Lucco, F., Martinez-Gacia, M., Desco, M., Ballesteros, A., Crone, E.A., Villariya, O., Carmona, S. (2020).
Becoming a mother entails anatomical changes in the ventral striatum of the human brain that facilitate its responsiveness to offspring cues.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, 112, 104507.

In mothers, offspring cues are associated with a powerful reinforcing value that motivates maternal care. Animal studies show that this is mediated by dopamine release into the nucleus accumbens, a core component of the brain’s reward system located in the ventral striatum (VStr). The VStr is also known to respond to infant signals in human mothers. However, it is unknown whether pregnancy modifies the anatomy or functionality of this structure, and whether such modifications underlie its strong reactivity to offspring cues. Therefore, we analyzed structural and functional neuroimaging data from a unique pre-conception prospective cohort study involving first-time mothers investigated before and after their pregnancy as well as nulliparous control women scanned at similar time intervals. First, we delineated the anatomy of the VStr in each subject’s neuroanatomical space and examined whether there are volumetric changes in this structure across sessions. Then, we tested if these changes could predict the mothers’ brain responses to visual stimuli of their infants. We found decreases in the right VStr and a trend for left VStr reductions in the women who were pregnant between sessions compared to the women who were not. Furthermore, VStr volume reductions across pregnancy were associated with infant-related VStr responses in the postpartum period, with stronger volume decreases predicting stronger functional activation to offspring cues. These findings provide the first indications that the transition to motherhood renders anatomical adaptations in the VStr that promote the strong responsiveness of a mother’s reward circuit to cues of her infant.

DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.104507

Spaans, J. P., Peters, S., & Crone, E. A. (2020).
Neural reward related-reactions to monetary gains for self and charity are associated with donating behavior in adolescence. 
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

The aim of the current study was to examine neural signatures of gaining money for self and charity in adolescence. Participants (N = 160, aged 11–21) underwent fMRI-scanning while performing a zero-sum vicarious reward task in which they could either earn money for themselves at the expense of charity, for a self-chosen charity at the expense of themselves, or for both parties. Afterwards, they could donate money to charity, which we used as a behavioral index of giving. Gaining for self and for both parties resulted in activity in the ventral striatum (specifically in the NAcc), but not gaining for charity. Interestingly, striatal activity when gaining for charity was positively related to individual differences in donation behavior and perspective taking. Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, insula and precentral gyrus were active when gaining only for self, and temporal-parietal junction when gaining only for charity, relative to gaining for both parties (i.e. under equity deviation). Taken together, these findings show that striatal activity during vicarious gaining for charity depends on levels of perspective taking and predicts future acts of giving to charity. These findings provide insight in the individual differences in the subjective value of prosocial outcomes.



Achterberg, M. & van der Meulen, M. (2019).
Genetic and environmental influences on MRI scan quantity and quality.
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 38.

The current study provides an overview of quantity and quality of MRI data in a large developmental twin sample (N = 512, aged 7–9), and investigated to what extent scan quantity and quality were influenced by genetic and environmental factors. This was examined in a fixed scan protocol consisting of two functional MRI tasks, high resolution structural anatomy (3DT1) and connectivity (DTI) scans, and a resting state scan. Overall, scan quantity was high (88% of participants completed all runs), while scan quality decreased with increasing session length. Scanner related distress was negatively associated with scan quantity (i.e., completed runs), but not with scan quality (i.e., included runs). In line with previous studies, behavioral genetic analyses showed that genetics explained part of the variation in head motion, with heritability estimates of 29% for framewise displacement and 65% for absolute displacement. Additionally, our results revealed that subtle head motion (after exclusion of excessive head motion) showed lower heritability estimates (0–14%), indicating that findings of motion-corrected and quality-controlled MRI data may be less confounded by genetic factors. These findings provide insights in factors contributing to scan quality in children, an issue that is highly relevant for the field of developmental neuroscience.


Altikulac, S. Bos, M.G.N., Foulkes, L., Crone, E.A., & Van Hoorn, J. (2019).
Age and gender effects in sensitivity to social rewards in adolescents and young adults.
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 13, 171.

Adolescence is a sensitive period for socio-cultural processing and a vast literature has established that adolescents are exceptionally attuned to the social context. Theoretical accounts posit that the social reward of social interactions plays a large role in adolescent sensitivity to the social context. Yet, to date it is unclear how sensitivity to social reward develops across adolescence and young adulthood and whether there are gender differences. The present cross-sectional study (N = 271 participants, age 11-28 years) examined age and gender effects in self-reported sensitivity to different types of social rewards. In order to achieve this aim, the Dutch Social Reward Questionnaire for Adolescents was validated. Findings revealed that each type of social reward was characterized by distinct age and gender effects. Feeling rewarded by gaining positive attention from others showed a peak in late adolescence, while enjoying positive reciprocal relationships with others showed a linear increase with age. Enjoying cruel behavior toward others decreased with age for girls, while boys showed no changes with age and reported higher levels across ages. Reward from giving others control showed a mid-adolescent dip, while enjoying group interactions did not show any changes with age. Taken together, the results imply that the social reward of social interactions is a nuanced and complex construct, which encompasses multiple components that show unique effects with age and gender. These findings enable us to gain further traction on the ubiquitous effects of the social context on decision-making in adolescent’s lives.

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00171

Becht, A.I., Luyckx, Koen, Nelemans, S.A., Goossens, Luc, Branje, S.J.T., Vollebergh, W.A.M. & Meeus, W.H.J. (2019).
Linking Identity and Depressive Symptoms Across Adolescence - A Multisample Longitudinal Study Testing Within-Person Effects.
Developmental Psychology, 55, 1733-1742.

This multisample longitudinal study examined the directionality of effects between identity exploration and commitment processes and depressive symptoms across adolescence. We compared two theoretical perspectives. According to the vulnerability model, identity uncertainty predicts depressive symptoms, whereas the scar model holds that depressive symptoms play into identity uncertainty. In investigating both models, we examined reciprocal within-person associations in Study 1 (N = 497, Mage Time 1 [T1] = 14.03 years, comprising five annual waves) and Study 2 (N = 1,022, Mage T1 = 15.80 years, comprising four annual waves). To this end, we applied the random-intercept cross-lagged panel model (RI-CLPM) in both studies. Results supported the vulnerability model across Studies 1 and 2. Specifically, within-person increasing reconsideration of commitment (Study 1) and ruminative exploration (Study 2) predicted a within-person increase in depressive symptoms 1 year later, but not vice versa. Commitment processes did not predict depressive symptoms at the within-person level. Our findings indicate that maladaptive exploration processes of identity formation play a particularly important role in the development of depressive symptoms at the within-person level.

DOI: 10.1037/dev0000742

Blankenstein, N.E., Telzer, E.H., Do, K.T. Van Duijvenvoorde, A.C.K. & Crone, E.A. (2019).
Behavioral and neural pathways supporting the development of prosocial and risk-taking behaviour across adolescence.
Child Development.

This study tested the pathways supporting adolescent development of prosocial and rebellious behavior. Self-report and structural brain development data were obtained in a three-wave, longitudinal neuroimaging study (8-29 years, N = 210 at Wave 3). First, prosocial and rebellious behavior assessed at Wave 3 were positively correlated. Perspective taking and intention to comfort uniquely predicted prosocial behavior, whereas fun seeking (current levels and longitudinal changes) predicted both prosocial and rebellious behaviors. These changes were accompanied by developmental declines in nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) volumes, but only faster decline of MPFC (faster maturity) related to less rebellious behavior. These findings point toward a possible differential susceptibility marker, fun seeking, as a predictor of both prosocial and rebellious developmental outcomes.

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13292

Carmona, S., Martinez-Garcia, M., Paternina-Doe, M., Barba-Muller, E., Wierenga, L.M., Aleman-Gomez, Y., Pretus, C., Marcos-Vidal, L., Beumala, L., Cortizo, E., Pozzobon, C., Picado, M., Lucco, F., Garcia-Garcia, D., Solvia, J.C., Tobena, A., Peper, J.S., Crone, E.A., Ballesteros, A., Vilarroya, O., Desco, M., Hoekzema, E. (2019).
Pregnancy and adolescence entail similar neuroanatomical adaptations: A comparative analysis of cerebral morphometric changes.
Human brain Mapping, 40(7), 2144-2152.

This study tested the pathways supporting adolescent development of prosocial and rebellious behavior. Self-report and structural brain development data were obtained in a three-wave, longitudinal neuroimaging study (8-29 years, N = 210 at Wave 3). First, prosocial and rebellious behavior assessed at Wave 3 were positively correlated. Perspective taking and intention to comfort uniquely predicted prosocial behavior, whereas fun seeking (current levels and longitudinal changes) predicted both prosocial and rebellious behaviors. These changes were accompanied by developmental declines in nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) volumes, but only faster decline of MPFC (faster maturity) related to less rebellious behavior. These findings point toward a possible differential susceptibility marker, fun seeking, as a predictor of both prosocial and rebellious developmental outcomes.

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13292

Goddings, A.L., Beltz, A., Peper, J.S., Crone, E.A., & Braams, B.R. (2019).
Understanding the role of puberty in structural and functional development of the adolescent brain.
Journal of Research on Adolescence, 29(1), 32-53.

Over the past two decades, there has been a tremendous increase in our understanding of structural and functional brain development in adolescence. However, understanding the role of puberty in this process has received much less attention. This review examines this relationship by summarizing recent research studies where the role of puberty was investigated in relation to brain structure, connectivity, and task-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The studies together suggest that puberty may contribute to adolescent neural reorganization and maturational advancement, and sex differences also emerge in puberty. The current body of work shows some mixed results regarding impact and exact direction of pubertal influence. We discuss several limitations of current studies and propose future directions on how to move the field forward.

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13292

Klapwijk, E. T., Van De Kamp, F., Van Der Meulen, M., Peters, S., & Wierenga, L. M. (2019).
Qoala-T: A supervised-learning tool for quality control of FreeSurfer segmented MRI data.
Neuroimage, 189, 116-129.

Performing quality control to detect image artifacts and data-processing errors is crucial in structural magnetic resonance imaging, especially in developmental studies. Currently, many studies rely on visual inspection by trained raters for quality control. The subjectivity of these manual procedures lessens comparability between studies, and with growing study sizes quality control is increasingly time consuming. In addition, both inter-rater as well as intra-rater variability of manual quality control is high and may lead to inclusion of poor quality scans and exclusion of scans of usable quality. In the current study we present the Qoala-T tool, which is an easy and free to use supervised-learning model to reduce rater bias and misclassification in manual quality control procedures using FreeSurfer-processed scans. First, we manually rated quality of N = 784 FreeSurfer-processed T1-weighted scans acquired in three different waves in a longitudinal study. Different supervised-learning models were then compared to predict manual quality ratings using FreeSurfer segmented output data. Results show that the Qoala-T tool using random forests is able to predict scan quality with both high sensitivity and specificity (mean area under the curve (AUC) = 0.98). In addition, the Qoala-T tool was also able to adequately predict the quality of two novel unseen datasets (total N = 872). Finally, analyses of age effects showed that younger participants were more likely to have lower scan quality, underlining that scan quality might confound findings attributed to age effects. These outcomes indicate that this procedure could further help to reduce variability related to manual quality control, thereby benefiting the comparability of data quality between studies.


Klapwijk, E. T., van den Bos, W., Tamnes, C. K., Mills, K. L., & Raschle, N. (2019, December 18).
Opportunities for increased reproducibility and replicability of developmental cognitive neuroscience.
PsyArxiv preprint

Recently, many workflows and tools that aim to increase the reproducibility and replicability of research findings have been suggested. In this review, we discuss the opportunities that these efforts offer for the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience. We focus on issues broadly related to statistical power and to flexibility and transparency in data analyses. Critical considerations relating to statistical power include challenges in recruitment and testing of young populations, how to increase the value of studies with small samples, and the opportunities and challenges related to working with large-scale datasets. Developmental studies also involve challenges such as choices about age groupings, modelling across the lifespan, the analyses of longitudinal changes, and neuroimaging data that can be processed and analyzed in a multitude of ways. Flexibility in data acquisition, analyses and description may thereby greatly impact results. We discuss methods for improving transparency in developmental cognitive neuroscience, and how preregistration of studies can improve methodological rigor in the field. While outlining challenges and issues that may arise before, during, and after data collection, solutions and resources are highlighted aiding to overcome some of these. Since the number of useful tools and techniques is ever-growing, we highlight the fact that many practices can be implemented stepwise.


Li, R., Utevsky, A.V., Huettel, S.A., Braams, B.R., Peters, S., Crone, E.A., Van Duijvenvoorde, A.C.K. (2019).
Developmental maturation of the precuneus as a functional core of the default mode network.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 10, 1506-1519.

Efforts to map the functional architecture of the developing human brain have shown that connectivity between and within functional neural networks changes from childhood to adulthood. Although prior work has established that the adult precuneus distinctively modifies its connectivity during task versus rest states [Utevsky, A. V., Smith, D. V., & Huettel, S. A. Precuneus is a functional core of the default-mode network. Journal of Neuroscience, 34, 932-940, 2014], it remains unknown how these connectivity patterns emerge over development. Here, we use fMRI data collected at two longitudinal time points from over 250 participants between the ages of 8 and 26 years engaging in two cognitive tasks and a resting-state scan. By applying independent component analysis to both task and rest data, we identified three canonical networks of interest-the rest-based default mode network and the task-based left and right frontoparietal networks (LFPN and RFPN, respectively)-which we explored for developmental changes using dual regression analyses. We found systematic state-dependent functional connectivity in the precuneus, such that engaging in a task (compared with rest) resulted in greater precuneus-LFPN and precuneus-RFPN connectivity, whereas being at rest (compared with task) resulted in greater precuneus-default mode network connectivity. These cross-sectional results replicated across both tasks and at both developmental time points. Finally, we used longitudinal mixed models to show that the degree to which precuneus distinguishes between task and rest states increases with age, due to age-related increasing segregation between precuneus and LFPN at rest. Our results highlight the distinct role of the precuneus in tracking processing state, in a manner that is both present throughout and strengthened across development.

DOI: 10.1162/jocn_a_01426

Spaans J.P., Will G.J., Van Hoorn J. & Güroğlu B. (2019).
Turning a Blind Eye? Punishment of Friends and Unfamiliar Peers After Observed Exclusion in Adolescence.
Journal of Research on Adolescence 29(2): 508-522.

In order to decrease the occurrence of social exclusion in adolescence, we need to better understand how adolescents perceive and behave toward peers involved in exclusion. We examined the role of friendships in treatment of perpetrators and victims of social exclusion. Eighty‐nine participants (aged 9–16) observed exclusion of an unfamiliar peer (victim) by their best friend and another unfamiliar peer. Subsequently, participants could give up valuable coins to altruistically punish or help peers. Results showed that participants altruistically compensated victims and punished unfamiliar excluders, but refrained from punishing their friends. Our findings show that friendship with excluders modulates altruistic punishment of peers and provide mechanistic insight into how friendships may influence treatment of peers involved in social exclusion during adolescence.


van de Groep, S., Meuwese, R., Zanolie, K., Güroğlu, B., & Crone, E. A. (2020).
Developmental changes and individual differences in trust and reciprocity in adolescence. 
Journal of Research on Adolescence30, 192-208.

The aim of the current study was to examine neural signatures of gaining money for self and charity in adolescence. Participants (N = 160, aged 11–21) underwent fMRI-scanning while performing a zero-sum vicarious reward task in which they could either earn money for themselves at the expense of charity, for a self-chosen charity at the expense of themselves, or for both parties. Afterwards, they could donate money to charity, which we used as a behavioral index of giving. Gaining for self and for both parties resulted in activity in the ventral striatum (specifically in the NAcc), but not gaining for charity. Interestingly, striatal activity when gaining for charity was positively related to individual differences in donation behavior and perspective taking. Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, insula and precentral gyrus were active when gaining only for self, and temporal-parietal junction when gaining only for charity, relative to gaining for both parties (i.e. under equity deviation). Taken together, these findings show that striatal activity during vicarious gaining for charity depends on levels of perspective taking and predicts future acts of giving to charity. These findings provide insight in the individual differences in the subjective value of prosocial outcomes.


van de Groep, S., Zanolie, K., & Crone, E. A. (2019).
Giving to Friends, Classmates, and Strangers in Adolescence.
Journal of Research on Adolescence, 30(S2).

This study examined how perspective taking and sensitivity to social rewards predict giving to friends, classmates, and strangers in adolescence. Five hundred and twenty adolescents aged 12–17 years completed questionnaires on perspective taking and social rewards and played three Dictator Games in which they divided coins between themselves and a friend, classmate, and stranger. We found that, irrespective of age, adolescents donated most to a friend, less to their classmate, and least to a stranger, and females donated more than males. Individual differences in perspective taking and social reward sensitivity moderated how much adolescents donated, especially to strangers. These findings suggest that perspective taking and sensitivity to social rewards influence giving behavior in adolescence, especially to unknown others.


van der Cruijsen, Murphy, J., & Bird, G. (2019).
Alexithymic traits can explain the association between puberty and symptoms of depression and anxiety in adolescent females. 
PLoS ONE, 14(1), e0210519

Symptoms of internalizing disorders such as depression and anxiety increase in adolescence, especially in females. However, gender differences in depression and anxiety symptoms emerge only after puberty onset. Levels of alexithymia, characterized by difficulties identifying and describing one’s emotions, are elevated in depression and anxiety, and fluctuate across adolescence in a gender-specific manner. This study investigated changes in alexithymia across adolescence, and explored the potential role of alexithymia in the development of depression and anxiety, separately for females and males. Accordingly, 140 adolescents aged 11 to 21 years (77 female) completed self-report measures of alexithymia, depression and anxiety, and pubertal development. For females alone, pubertal maturation was associated with alexithymic traits (specifically difficulties identifying and describing feelings), as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety. After accounting for alexithymia, the relationship between puberty and depression and anxiety was absent or reduced in females. Thus, alexithymic traits may have differential consequences for males and females, and possibly contribute towards increased depression and anxiety symptoms in females during adolescence. We propose that developmental changes in alexithymia should be considered when studying the onset and development of internalizing psychological disorders during adolescence.


Van den Heuvel, M.P…. Crone, E.A., …De Lange, S.C. (2019).
10Kin1day: A bottom-up neuroimaging initiative.
Frontiers in Neurology, 10, 425.

We organized 10Kin1day, a pop-up scientific event with the goal to bring together neuroimaging groups from around the world to jointly analyze 10,000+ existing MRI connectivity datasets during a 3-day workshop. In this report, we describe the motivation and principles of 10Kin1day, together with a public release of 8,000+ MRI connectome maps of the human brain.

DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00425

van der Aar, L.P.E., Peters, S., van der Cruijsen, R., & Crone, E.A. (2019).
The neural correlates of academic self-concept in adolescence and the relation to making future-oriented academic choices. 
Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 15, 10-17.

This study examined the role of brain regions involved in academic self-evaluation in relation to problems with study orientation. For this purpose, 48 participants between ages 14–20 years evaluated themselves on academic traits sentences in an fMRI session. In addition, participants completed an orientation to study choice questionnaire, evaluated the importance of academic traits, and completed a reading and shortened IQ test as an index of cognitive performance. Behavioral results showed that academic self-evaluations were a more important predictor for problems with study orientation compared to subjective academic importance or academic performance. On a neural level, we found that individual differences in the positivity of academic self-evaluations were reflected in increased precuneus activity. Moreover, precuneus activity mediated the relation between academic self positivity and problems with study orientation. Together, these findings support the importance of studying academic self-concept and its neural correlates in the educational decision-making process.


van der Cruijsen, Peters, S., Zoetendaal, K.P.M., Pfeifer, J.H., & Crone, E.A. (2019).
Direct and reflected self-concept show increasing similarity across adolescence: A functional neuroimaging study. 
Neuropsychologia, 129, 407-417.

In adolescence, the perceived opinions of others are important in the construction of one’s self-concept. Previous studies found involvement of medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC) and temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) in direct (own perspective) and reflected (perceived perspective of others) self-evaluations, but no studies to date examined differences in these processes across adolescence. In this study, 150 adolescents between 11 and 21 years old evaluated their traits from their own perspective and from the perceived perspective of peers in a fMRI session. Results showed overlapping behavioural and neural measures for direct and reflected self-evaluations, in mPFC, precuneus and right TPJ. The difference in behavioural ratings declined with age, and this pattern was mirrored by activity in the mPFC, showing a diminishing difference in activation for direct > reflected self-evaluations with increasing age. Right TPJ was engaged more strongly for reflected > direct evaluations in adolescents who were less positive about themselves, and those who showed who showed less item-by-item agreement between direct and reflected self-evaluations. Together, the results suggest that the internalization of others’ opinions in constructing a self-concept occurs on both the behavioural and neural levels across adolescence, which may aid in developing a stable self-concept.


van der Cruijsen, Buisman, R., Green, K., Peters, S., & Crone, E.A. (2019).
Neural responses for evaluating self and mother traits in adolescence depend on mother-adolescent relationships. 
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14(5), 481-492.

An important task in adolescence is to achieve autonomy while preserving a positive relationship with parents. Previous fMRI studies showed largely overlapping activation in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) for evaluating self and close-other traits but separable activation for self and non-close other. Possibly, more similar mPFC activation reflects closeness or warmth in relationships. We investigated neural indicators of the mother–adolescent relationship in adolescents between 11 and 21 years (N = 143). Mother–adolescent relationship was measured using (i) mothers’ and adolescents’ trait evaluations about each other, (ii) observations of warmth, negativity and emotional support in mother–adolescent conversation and (iii) similarity in adolescents’ neural activation for evaluating self vs mother traits. Results showed relatively more similar mPFC activation in adolescents who evaluated their mothers’ traits more positively, suggesting that this is possibly a neural indicator of mother–adolescent relationship quality. Furthermore, mid-adolescence was characterized by more negative mother–adolescent interaction compared to early and late adolescence. This effect co-occurred with mid-adolescent peaks in dorsal striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and superior temporal sulcus activation in evaluating traits of self vs mother. These results suggest more negative relationships and stronger self-focus in mid-adolescence.


Van Duijvenvoorde, A.C.K., Westhoff, B., De Vos, F., Wierenga, L.M., & Crone, E.A. (2019).
A three-wave longitudinal study of subcortical-cortical resting-state connectivity in adolescence: Testing age- and puberty-related changes.
Human Brain Mapping, 40(13), 3769-3783.

Adolescence is the transitional period between childhood and adulthood, characterized by substantial changes in reward-driven behavior. Although reward-driven behavior is supported by subcortical-medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) connectivity, the development of these circuits is not well understood. Particularly, while puberty has been hypothesized to accelerate organization and activation of functional neural circuits, the relationship between age, sex, pubertal change, and functional connectivity has hardly been studied. Here, we present an analysis of resting-state functional connectivity between subcortical structures and the medial PFC, in 661 scans of 273 participants between 8 and 29 years, using a three-wave longitudinal design. Generalized additive mixed model procedures were used to assess the effects of age, sex, and self-reported pubertal status on connectivity between subcortical structures (nucleus accumbens, caudate, putamen, hippocampus, and amygdala) and cortical medial structures (dorsal anterior cingulate, ventral anterior cingulate, subcallosal cortex, frontal medial cortex). We observed an age-related strengthening of subcortico-subcortical and cortico-cortical connectivity. Subcortical-cortical connectivity, such as, between the nucleus accumbens-frontal medial cortex, and the caudate-dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, however, weakened across age. Model-based comparisons revealed that for specific connections pubertal development described developmental change better than chronological age. This was particularly the case for changes in subcortical-cortical connectivity and distinctively for boys and girls. Together, these findings indicate changes in functional network strengthening with pubertal development. These changes in functional connectivity may maximize the neural efficiency of interregional communication and set the stage for further inquiry of biological factors driving adolescent functional connectivity changes.

DOI: 10.1002/hbm.24630

Wierenga, L.M., Bos, M.G.N., Van Rossenberg, F. & Crone, E.A. (2019).
Sex effects on development of brain structure and executive functions: Greater variance than mean effects.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 31(5), 730-753.

Although male brains have consistently reported to be 8-10% larger than female brains, it remains not well understood whether there are differences between sexes (average or variance) in developmental trajectories. Furthermore, if sex differences in average brain growth or variance are observed, it is unknown whether these sex differences have behavioral relevance. The present longitudinal study aimed to unravel sex effects in cortical brain structure, development, and variance, in relation to the development of educationally relevant cognitive domains and executive functions (EFs). This was assessed with three experimental tasks including working memory, reading comprehension, and fluency. In addition, real-life aspects of EF were assessed with self- and parent-reported Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function scores. The full data set included 271 participants (54% female) aged between 8 and 29 years of which three waves were collected at 2-year intervals, resulting in 680 T1-weighted MRI scans and behavioral measures. Analyses of average trajectories confirmed general age-related patterns of brain development but did not support the hypothesis of sex differences in brain development trajectories, except for left banks STS where boys had a steeper decline in surface area than girls. Also, our brain age prediction model (including 270 brain measures) did not indicate delayed maturation in boys compared with girls. Interestingly, support was found for greater variance in male brains than female brains in both structure and development, consistent with prior cross-sectional studies. Behaviorally, boys performed on average better on a working memory task with a spatial aspect and girls performed better on a reading comprehension task, but there was no relation between brain development and cognitive performance, neither for average brain measures, brain age, or variance measures. Taken together, we confirmed the hypothesis of greater males within-group variance in brain structures compared with females, but these were not related to EF. The sex differences observed in EF were not related to brain development, possibly suggesting that these are related to experiences and strategies rather than biological development.

DOI: 10.1162/jocn_a_01375


Achterberg, M., van Duijvenvoorde, A. C. K., van der Meulen, M., BakermansKranenburg, M. J. & Crone, E. A. (2018).
Heritability of aggression following social evaluation in middle childhood: An fMRI study.
Human Brain Mapping, 39, 2828-2841.

Middle childhood marks an important phase for developing and maintaining social relations. At the same time, this phase is marked by a gap in our knowledge of the genetic and environmental influences on brain responses to social feedback and their relation to behavioral aggression. In a large developmental twin sample (509 7- to 9-year-olds), the heritability and neural underpinnings of behavioral aggression following social evaluation were investigated, using the Social Network Aggression Task (SNAT). Participants viewed pictures of peers that gave positive, neutral, or negative feedback to the participant’s profile. Next, participants could blast a loud noise toward the peer as an index of aggression. Genetic modeling revealed that aggression following negative feedback was influenced by both genetics and environmental (shared as well as unique environment). On a neural level (n = 385), the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex gyrus (ACCg) responded to both positive and negative feedback, suggesting they signal for social salience cues. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) were specifically activated during negative feedback, whereas positive feedback resulted in increased activation in caudate, supplementary motor cortex (SMA), and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Decreased SMA and DLPFC activation during negative feedback was associated with more aggressive behavior after negative feedback. Moreover, genetic modeling showed that 13%-14% of the variance in dorsolateral PFC activity was explained by genetics. Our results suggest that the processing of social feedback is partly explained by genetic factors, whereas shared environmental influences play a role in behavioral aggression following feedback.


Achterberg, M., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., van IJzendoorn, M. H., van der Meulen, M., Tottenham, N. & Crone, E. A. (2018).
Distinctive heritability patterns of subcortical-prefrontal cortex resting state connectivity in childhood: A twin study.
Neuroimage, 175, 138-149.

Connectivity between limbic/subcortical and prefrontal-cortical brain regions develops considerably across childhood, but less is known about the heritability of these networks at this age. We tested the heritability of limbic/subcortical-cortical and limbic/subcortical-subcortical functional brain connectivity in 7- to 9-year-old twins (N = 220), focusing on two key limbic/subcortical structures: the ventral striatum and the amygdala, given their combined influence on changing incentivised behavior during childhood and adolescence. Whole brain analyses with ventral striatum (VS) and amygdala as seeds in genetically independent groups showed replicable functional connectivity patterns. The behavioral genetic analyses revealed that in general VS and amygdala connectivity showed distinct influences of genetics and environment. VS-prefrontal cortex connections were best described by genetic and unique environmental factors (the latter including measurement error), whereas amygdala-prefrontal cortex connectivity was mainly explained by environmental influences. Similarities were also found: connectivity between both the VS and amygdala and ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) showed influences of shared environment, while connectivity with the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) showed heritability. These findings may inform future interventions that target behavioral control and emotion regulation, by taking into account genetic dispositions as well as shared and unique environmental factors such as child rearing.


Becht, A.I., Bos, Marieke G. N., Nelemans, S.A., Peters, Sabine, Vollebergh, W.A.M., Branje, S.J.T., Meeus, W.H.J. & Crone, Eveline (2018).
Goal-Directed Correlates and Neurobiological Underpinnings of Adolescent Identity - A Multimethod Multisample Longitudinal Approach.
Child Development, 89, 823-836.

Studies on identity formation focus on various components of identity. However, these components have mainly been studied separately, and researchers in different fields are not always aware of each other’s work. Therefore, this systematic review provides an overview of theories and empirical studies on three key components of identity: distinctiveness (seeing the self as unique and distinct from others), coherence (perceiving the self as similar across life domains), and continuity (perceiving the self as the same person over time). This systematic review focused on the development of these components and linkages with psychosocial functioning. Findings suggest important differences between the three identity components. Therefore, we propose an integrative developmental framework of identity, including all three identity components and their linkages.


Blankenstein, N.E., Schreuders, E., Peper, J.S., Crone, E.A., & Van Duijvenvoorde, A.C.K. (2018).
Individual differences in risk-taking tendencies modulate the neural processing of risky and ambiguous decision-making in adolescence.
Neuroimage, 172, 663-673.

Although many neuroimaging studies have investigated adolescent risk taking, few studies have dissociated between decision-making under risk (known probabilities) and ambiguity (unknown probabilities). Furthermore, which brain regions are sensitive to individual differences in task-related and self-reported risk taking remains elusive. We presented 198 adolescents (11-24 years, an age-range in which individual differences in risk taking are prominent) with an fMRI paradigm that separated decision-making (choosing to gamble or not) and reward outcome processing (gains, no gains) under risky and ambiguous conditions, and related this to task-related and self-reported risk taking. We observed distinct neural mechanisms underlying risky and ambiguous gambling, with risk more prominently associated with activation in parietal cortex, and ambiguity more prominently with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), as well as medial PFC during outcome processing. Individual differences in task-related risk taking were positively associated with ventral striatum activation in the decision phase, specifically for risk, and negatively associated with insula and dorsomedial PFC activation, specifically for ambiguity. Moreover, dorsolateral PFC activation in the outcome phase seemed a prominent marker for individual differences in task-related risk taking under ambiguity as well as self-reported daily-life risk taking, in which greater risk taking was associated with reduced activation in dorsolateral PFC. Together, this study demonstrates the importance of considering multiple risk-taking measures, and contextual moderators, in understanding the neural mechanisms underlying adolescent risk taking.

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.01.085

Bos, M.G.N., Peters, S., van de Kamp, F., Crone, E.A., & Tamnes, C.K. (2018).
Emerging depression in adolescence coincides with accelerated frontal cortical thinning.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(9), 994-1002.


Background: Adolescence is a transition period characterized by heightened emotional reactivity, which for some sets the stage for emerging depressive symptoms. Prior studies suggest that adolescent depression is associated with deviant cortical and subcortical brain structure. Longitudinal studies are, however, currently scarce, but critical to detect which adolescents are at risk for developing depressive symptoms.

Methods: In this longitudinal study, a community sample of 205 participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in three biennial waves (522 scans) spanning 5 years across ages 8-25 years. Depressive symptomatology was assessed using self-report at the third time point. Mixed models were used to examine the relations between structural brain development, specifically regional change in cortical thickness, surface area and subcortical volumes (hippocampus and amygdala), and depressive symptoms.

Results: Accelerated frontal lobe cortical thinning was observed in adolescents who developed depressive symptoms at the third time point. This effect remained after controlling for parent-reported affective problems at the first time point. Moreover, the effect was driven by specific lateral orbitofrontal and precentral regions. In addition, differential developmental trajectories of parietal cortical thickness and surface area in several regions were found for participants reporting higher depressive symptomatology, but these results did not survive correction for multiple comparisons. Volumes or developmental volume changes in hippocampus or amygdala were not related to depressive symptoms.

Conclusions: This study showed that emerging depression is associated with cortical thinning in frontal regions within individuals. These findings move beyond detecting cross-sectional correlations and set the stage for early detection, which may inform future intervention.

DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12895

Bos, M.G.N., Wierenga, L.N., Blankenstein, N.E., Schreuders, E., Tamnes, C.K., Crone, E.A. (2018).
Longitudinal structural brain development and externalizing behaviour in adolescence.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(10), 1061-1072).


Background: Cross-sectional studies report relations between externalizing behavior and structural abnormalities in cortical thickness of prefrontal regions and volume reductions in subcortical regions. To understand how these associations emerge and develop, longitudinal designs are pivotal.

Method: In the current longitudinal study, a community sample of children, adolescents and young adults (N = 271) underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in three biennial waves (680 scans). At each wave, aspects of externalizing behavior were assessed with parent-reported aggression and rule-breaking scores (Child Behavior Checklist), and self-reported aggression scores (Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire). Regions of interest (ROIs) were selected based on prior research: dorsolateral prefrontal (dlPFC), orbitofrontal (OFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), insula, and parahippocampal cortex, as well as subcortical regions. Linear mixed models were used to assess the longitudinal relation between externalizing behavior and structural brain development. Structural covariance analyses were employed to identify whether longitudinal relations between ROIs (maturational coupling) were associated with externalizing behavior.

Results: Linear mixed model analyses showed a negative relation between parent-reported aggression and right hippocampal volume. Moreover, this longitudinal relation was driven by change in hippocampal volume and not initial volume of hippocampus at time point 1. Exploratory analyses showed that stronger maturational coupling between prefrontal regions, the limbic system, and striatum was associated with both low and high externalizing behavior.

Conclusions: Together, these findings reinforce the hypothesis that altered structural brain development coincides with development of more externalizing behavior. These findings may guide future research on normative and deviant development of externalizing behavior.

DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12972

Crone, E.A. & Konijn, E.A. (2018).
Media use and brain development during adolescence.
Nature Communications, 9:588.


The current generation of adolescents grows up in a media-saturated world. However, it is unclear how media influences the maturational trajectories of brain regions involved in social interactions. Here we review the neural development in adolescence and show how neuroscience can provide a deeper understanding of developmental sensitivities related to adolescents’ media use. We argue that adolescents are highly sensitive to acceptance and rejection through social media, and that their heightened emotional sensitivity and protracted development of reflective processing and cognitive control may make them specifically reactive to emotion-arousing media. This review illustrates how neuroscience may help understand the mutual influence of media and peers on adolescents’ well-being and opinion formation.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03126-x

Guyer, A.E., Perez-Edgar, K. & Crone, E.A. (2018).
Opportunities for neurodevelopmental plasticity from infancy through early adulthood.
Child Development, 89(3), 687-697.


Multiple and rapid changes in brain development occur in infancy and early childhood that undergird behavioral development in core domains. The period of adolescence also carries a second influx of growth and change in the brain to support the unique developmental tasks of adolescence. This special section documents two core conclusions from multiple studies. First, evidence for change in brain-based metrics that underlie cognitive and behavioral functions are not limited to narrow windows in development, but are evident from infancy into early adulthood. Second, the specific evident changes are unique to challenges and goals that are salient for a respective developmental period. These brain-based changes interface with environmental inputs, whether from the child’s broader ecology or at an individual level.

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13073

Peper,J.S., Braams, B.R., Blankenstein, N.E., Bos, M.G.N, & Crone, E.A. (2018).
Development of multi-faceted risk-taking and the relations to steroid hormones: A longitudinal study.
Child Development, 89(5), 1887-1907.

Risk taking is a multidimensional construct. It is currently unclear which aspects of risk-taking change most during adolescence and if/how sex hormones contribute to risk-taking tendencies. This study applied a longitudinal design with three time-points, separated by 2 years, in participants aged 8-29 years (670 observations). The Balloon Analogue Risk Task, a delay discounting task, and various self-report questionnaires were administered, to measure aspects of risk taking. Longitudinal analyses demonstrated mostly nonlinear age-related patterns in risk-taking behavior and approach-related personality characteristics (peaking in late adolescence). Increased testosterone and estradiol were found to increase risk-taking behavior and impulsive personality, but decrease avoidance-like personality. This study demonstrates that risk taking is most pronounced in mid-to-late adolescence and suggests that sex hormones accelerate this maturational process.

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13063

Schreuders, E., Braams, B.R., Blankenstein, N.E., Peper, J.S., Guroglu, B. & Crone, E.A. (2018).
Contributions of reward sensitivity to ventral striatum activity across adolescence and early adulthood.
Child Development, 89(3), 797-810.

It was examined how ventral striatum responses to rewards develop across adolescence and early adulthood and how individual differences in state- and trait-level reward sensitivity are related to these changes. Participants (aged 8-29 years) were tested across three waves separated by 2 years (693 functional MRI scans) in an accelerated longitudinal design. The results confirmed an adolescent peak in reward-related ventral striatum, specifically nucleus accumbens, activity. In early to mid-adolescence, increases in reward activation were related to trait-level reward drive. In mid-adolescence to early adulthood decreases in reward activation were related to decreases in state-level hedonic reward pleasure. This study demonstrates that state- and trait-level reward sensitivity account for reward-related ventral striatum activity in different phases of adolescence and early adulthood.

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13056

Spaans J.P., Burke S.M., Altikulac S., Braams B.R., Op de Macks Z.A. & Crone E.A. (2018).
Win for your kin: Neural responses to personal and vicarious rewards when mothers win for their adolescent children.
PLoS ONE 13(6): e0198663.

Mother-child relationships change considerably in adolescence, but it is not yet understood how mothers experience vicarious rewards for their adolescent children. In the current study, we investigated neural responses of twenty mothers winning and losing money for their best friend and for their adolescent child in a gambling task. During the task, functional neuroimaging data were acquired. We examined the activation patterns when playing for or winning for self, adolescent children and friends in four a-priori selected ROIs (nucleus accumbens, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, precuneus and temporo-parietal junction). Behaviorally, mothers indicated that they experienced most enjoyment when they gained money for their children and that their children deserved to win more, relative to friends and self. At the neural level, nucleus accumbens activity was stronger when winning versus losing. This pattern was not only found when playing for self, but also for friends and children, possibly reflecting the rewarding value of vicarious prosocial gains. In addition, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, precuneus, and temporo-parietal junction were more active when receiving outcomes for children and friends compared to self, possibly reflecting increased recruitment of mentalizing processes. Interestingly, activity in this network was stronger for mothers who indicated that their children and friends deserved to win more. These findings provide initial evidence that vicarious rewards for one’s children are processed similarly as rewards for self, and that activation in social brain regions are related to social closeness.


Tamnes, C.K., Bos, M.G.N., Van de Kamp, F.C., Peters, S., & Crone, E.A. (2018).
Longitudinal development of hippocampus subregions from childhood to adulthood.
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 30, 212-222.

Detailed descriptions of the development of the hippocampus promise to shed light on the neural foundation of development of memory and other cognitive functions, as well as the emergence of major mental disorders. Hippocampus is a heterogeneous structure with a well characterized internal complexity, but development of its distinct subregions in humans has remained poorly described. We analyzed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data from a large longitudinal sample (270 participants, 678 scans) using an automated segmentation tool and mixed models to delineate the development of hippocampal subregion volumes from childhood to adulthood. We also examined sex differences in subregion volumes and their development, and associations between hippocampal subregions and general cognitive ability. Nonlinear developmental trajectories with early volume increases were observed for subiculum, cornu ammonis (CA) 1, molecular layer (ML) and fimbria. In contrast, parasubiculum, presubiculum, CA2/3, CA4 and the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus (GC-DG) showed linear volume decreases. No sex differences were found in hippocampal subregion development. Finally, general cognitive ability was positively associated with CA2/3 and CA4 volumes, as well as with ML development. In conclusion, hippocampal subregions appear to develop in diversified ways across adolescence, and specific subregions may link to general cognitive level.

DOI: 10.1016/j.dcn.2018.03.009

van der Cruijsen, R., Peters, S., van der Aar, L.P.E., & Crone, E.A. (2018).
The neural signature of self-concept development in adolescence: The role of domain and valence distinctions. 
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 30, 1-12.

Neuroimaging studies in adults showed that cortical midline regions including medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC) are important in self-evaluations. The goals of this study were to investigate the contribution of these regions to self-evaluations in late childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, and to examine whether these differed per domain (academic, physical and prosocial) and valence (positive versus negative). Also, we tested whether this activation changes across adolescence. For this purpose, participants between ages 11–21-years (N = 150) evaluated themselves on trait sentences in an fMRI session. Behaviorally, adolescents rated their academic traits less positively than children and young adults. The neural analyses showed that evaluating self-traits versus a control condition was associated with increased activity in mPFC (domain-general effect), and positive traits were associated with increased activity in ventral mPFC (valence effect). Self-related mPFC activation increased linearly with age, but only for evaluating physical traits. Furthermore, an adolescent-specific decrease in striatum activation for positive self traits was found. Finally, we found domain-specific neural activity for evaluating traits in physical (dorsolateral PFC, dorsal mPFC) and academic (PPC) domains. Together, these results highlight the importance of domain distinctions when studying self-concept development in late childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.


Van den Bos, W., Crone, E.A., Meuwese, R. & Guroglu, B. (2018).
Social network cohesion in school classes promotes prosocial behaviour.
PLoS One, 13(4), e0194656.

Adolescence is a key period of social development at the end of which individuals are expected to take on adult social roles. The school class, as the most salient peer group, becomes the prime environment that impacts social development during adolescence. Using social network analyses, we investigated how individual and group level features are related to prosocial behavior and social capital (generalized trust). We mapped the social networks within 22 classrooms of adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years (N = 611), and collected data on social behaviors towards peers. Our results indicate that individuals with high centrality show both higher levels of prosocial behavior and relational aggression. Importantly, greater social cohesion in the classroom was associated with (1) reduced levels of antisocial behavior towards peers and (2) increased generalized trust. These results provide novel insights in the relationship between social structure and social behavior, and stress the importance of the school environment in the development of not only intellectual but also social capital.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194656

Van der Aar, L.P.E., Peters, S., & Crone, E.A. (2018).
The development of self-views across adolescence: Investigating self-descriptions with and without social comparison using a novel experimental paradigm.
Cognitive Development, 48, 256-270.

Adolescence has been described as a unique period for self-concept development, with an intensified alertness to social comparison as a mechanism for self-knowledge and self-evaluation. However, it remains difficult to disentangle the specific influence of these social comparisons on the development of self-descriptions in adolescence. Moreover, it is still unclear how social comparisons impact upon the development of self-views in different domains, such as physical, academic and social self-views. The goal of this study was therefore to examine the development of self-descriptions in different domains across adolescence, and to experimentally test how the development of these self-descriptions is altered by an explicit social comparison context. For this purpose, we developed two tasks which both asked participants (aged 9-25-years, N = 202) for trait self-descriptions but differed in the salience of a social comparison. Results showed consistent age-differences with more positive self-views for children and adolescents in the age-range 9–14 years. The context of explicit social comparison yielded similar as well as additional age-differences that were more dependent upon valence and domain. Moreover, mid-adolescents (15–17 y) were most negatively affected by these social comparisons relative to other ages. Together, this study made a first step in disentangling the specific influence of social comparison outcomes within the development of general self-descriptions, and highlights the importance of social context in studying self-concept in adolescence.


van Doeselaar, Lotte, Becht, A.I., Klimstra, T.A. & Meeus, W.H.J. (2018).
A Review and Integration of Three Key Components of Identity Development: Distinctiveness, Coherence, and Continuity.
European Psychologist, 23, 278-288.
*Lotte van Doeselaar and Andrik I. Becht shared first authorship.

This multimethod multisample longitudinal study examined how neurological substrates associated with goal directedness and information seeking are related to adolescents’ identity. Self-reported data on goal-directedness were collected across three biannual waves in Study 1. Identity was measured one wave later. Study 1 design and measurements were repeated in Study 2 and extended with structural brain data (nucleus accumbens [NAcc] and prefrontal cortex gray matter volume [PFC]), collected across three biannual waves. Study 1 included 497 adolescents (Mage T1  = 13.03 years) and Study 2 included 131 adolescents (Mage T1  = 14.69 years). Using latent growth curve models, goal directedness, NAcc, and PFC volume predicted a stronger identity one wave later. These findings provide crucial new insights in the underlying neurobiological architecture of identity.

DOI:  10.1111/cdev.13048

Wierenga, L.M., Bos, M.G.N., Schreuders, E., Van de Kamp, F., Peper, J.S., Tamnes, C.K., & Crone, E.A. (2018).
Unraveling age, puberty, and testosterone effects on subcortical brain development across adolescence.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, 91, 105-114.

The onset of adolescence in humans is marked by hormonal changes that give rise to secondary sexual characteristics, noted as puberty. It has, however, proven challenging to unravel to what extent pubertal changes may have organizing effects on the brain beyond chronological age, as reported in animal studies. The present longitudinal study aimed to characterize the unique effects of age and puberty on subcortical brain volumes and included three waves of data collection at two-year intervals and 680 T1-weighted MRI scans of 271 participants (54% females) aged between 8 and 29 years old. Generalized additive mixed model procedures were used to assess the effects of age, self-report pubertal status and testosterone level on basal ganglia, thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala and cerebellum gray matter volumes. We observed age-related increases in putamen and pallidum volumes, and decreases in accumbens and thalamus volumes, all show larger volumes in boys than girls. Only the cerebellum showed an interaction effect of age by sex, such that males showed prolonged increases in cerebellar volume than females. Next, we showed that changes in self-report puberty status better described developmental change than chronological age for most structures in males, and for caudate, pallidum and hippocampal volumes in females. Furthermore, changes in testosterone level were related to development of pallidum, accumbens, hippocampus and amygdala volumes in males and caudate and hippocampal volumes in females. The modeling approach of the present study allowed us to characterize the complex interactions between chronological age and pubertal maturational changes, and the findings indicate puberty unique changes in brain structure that are sex specific.

DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.02.034

Wierenga, L.M., Van den Heuvel, M.P., Oranje, B., Giedd, J.N., Durston, S., Peper, J.S., Brown, T.T., Crone, E.A.
The Pediatric Longitdunal Imaging, Neurocognition and Genetics Study (2018).
Human Brain Mapping, 39(1), 157-170

Recent advances in human neuroimaging research have revealed that white-matter connectivity can be described in terms of an integrated network, which is the basis of the human connectome. However, the developmental changes of this connectome in childhood are not well understood. This study made use of two independent longitudinal diffusion-weighted imaging data sets to characterize developmental changes in the connectome by estimating age-related changes in fractional anisotropy (FA) for reconstructed fibers (edges) between 68 cortical regions. The first sample included 237 diffusion-weighted scans of 146 typically developing children (4-13 years old, 74 females) derived from the Pediatric Longitudinal Imaging, Neurocognition, and Genetics (PLING) study. The second sample included 141 scans of 97 individuals (8-13 years old, 62 females) derived from the BrainTime project. In both data sets, we compared edges that had the most substantial age-related change in FA to edges that showed little change in FA. This allowed us to investigate if developmental changes in white matter reorganize network topology. We observed substantial increases in edges connecting peripheral and a set of highly connected hub regions, referred to as the rich club. Together with the observed topological differences between regions connecting to edges showing the smallest and largest changes in FA, this indicates that changes in white matter affect network organization, such that highly connected regions become even more strongly imbedded in the network. These findings suggest that an important process in brain development involves organizing patterns of inter-regional interactions.

DOI: 10.1002/hbm.23833

Will, G.J., Crone, E.A., Van Lier, P.A.C., & Guroglu, B. (2018).
Longitudinal links between childhood peer acceptance and the neural correlates of sharing.
Developmental Science, 21(1).

Childhood peer acceptance is associated with high levels of prosocial behavior and advanced perspective taking skills. Yet, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these associations have not been studied. This functional magnetic resonance imaging study examined the neural correlates of sharing decisions in a group of adolescents who had a stable accepted status (n = 27) and a group who had a chronic rejected status (n = 19) across six elementary school grades. Both groups of adolescents played three allocation games in which they could share money with strangers with varying costs and profits to them and the other person. Stably accepted adolescents were more likely to share their money with unknown others than chronically rejected adolescents when sharing was not costly. Neuroimaging analyses showed that stably accepted adolescents, compared to chronically rejected adolescents, exhibited higher levels of activation in the temporo-parietal junction, posterior superior temporal sulcus, temporal pole, pre-supplementary motor area, and anterior insula during costly sharing decisions. These findings demonstrate that stable peer acceptance across childhood is associated with heightened activity in brain regions previously linked to perspective taking and the detection of social norm violations during adolescence, and thereby provide insight into processes underlying the widely established links between peer acceptance and prosocial behavior.

DOI: 10.1111/desc.12489


Achterberg, M., van Duijvenvoorde, A. C. K., van der Meulen, M., Euser, S., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. & Crone, E. A. (2017).
The neural and behavioral correlates of social evaluation in childhood.
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 107-117.

Being accepted or rejected by peers is highly salient for developing social relations in childhood. We investigated the behavioral and neural correlates of social feedback and subsequent aggression in 7–10-year-old children, using the Social Network Aggression Task (SNAT). Participants viewed pictures of peers that gave positive, neutral or negative feedback to the participant’s profile. Next, participants could blast a loud noise towards the peer, as an index of aggression. We included three groups (N = 19, N = 28 and N = 27) and combined the results meta-analytically. Negative social feedback resulted in the most behavioral aggression, with large combined effect-sizes. Whole brain condition effects for each separate sample failed to show robust effects, possibly due to the small samples. Exploratory analyses over the combined test and replication samples confirmed heightened activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) after negative social feedback. Moreover, meta-analyses of activity in predefined regions of interest showed that negative social feedback resulted in more neural activation in the amygdala, anterior insula and the mPFC/anterior cingulate cortex. Together, the results show that social motivation is already highly salient in middle childhood, and indicate that the SNAT is a valid paradigm for assessing the neural and behavioral correlates of social evaluation in children.


Becht, A.I., Nelemans, S.A., Branje, S.J.T., Vollebergh, W.A.M., Koot, Hans M. & Meeus, W.H.J. (2017).
Identity uncertainty and commitment making across adolescence: Five-year within-person associations using daily identity reports.
Developmental Psychology, 53, 2103-2112.

A central assumption of identity theory is that adolescents reconsider current identity commitments and explore identity alternatives before they make new commitments in various identity domains (Erikson, 1968; Marcia, 1966). Yet, little empirical evidence is available on how commitment and exploration dynamics of identity formation affect each other across adolescence at the within-person level. Therefore, the current study (N = 494, Mage Time 1 = 13.3 years) examined reciprocal within-person longitudinal linkages between adolescents’ identity exploration and identity commitment making in the interpersonal and educational identity domains. For this purpose, we constructed a multilevel type cross-lagged panel model from early to late adolescence (i.e., across 5 successive years). Results supported Erikson’s (1968) hypothesis that adolescents reconsider current identity commitments and explore alternatives before they make strong commitments within the interpersonal identity domain across early to late adolescence. Within the educational identity domain, increasing identity commitment level and commitment fluctuations predicted less identity reconsideration over time. Our findings support identity theory, but indicate that the processes of identity formation might differ depending on the identity domain.

DOI: 10.1037/dev0000374

Becht, A.I., Nelemans, S.A., Van Dijk, M.P.A., Branje, S.J.T., Van Lier, P.A.C., Denissen, J.J.A. & Meeus, W.H.J. (2017).
Clear Self, Better Relationships: Adolescents’ Self-Concept Clarity and Relationship Quality With Parents and Peers Across 5 Years.
Child Development, 88, 1823–1833.

This study examined reciprocal associations between adolescents’ self-concept clarity (SCC) and their relationship quality with parents and best friends in a five-wave longitudinal study from age 13 to 18 years. In all, 497 adolescents (57% boys) reported on their SCC and all informants (i.e., adolescents, both parents, and adolescents’ best friends) reported on support and negative interaction. Within-person cross-lagged analyses provided systematic evidence for both parent effects and child effects, with the direction of effects being strongly dependent on the relational context. For example, higher maternal support predicted higher adolescent SCC, supporting a parent effects perspective, whereas higher SCC predicted lower paternal negative interaction, supporting a child effects perspective. Peer effects on adolescent SCC were not consistently found across adolescent and best friend reports.


van der Cruijsen, R., Peters, S., & Crone, E.A. (2017).
Neural correlates of evaluating self and close-other in physical, academic and prosocial domains.
Brain and cognition, 118, 45-53.

Behavioral studies showed that self-concept can be distinguished into different domains, but few neuroimaging studies have investigated either domain-specific or valence-specific activity. Here, we investigated whether evaluating self- and mother-traits in three domains (physical, academic, prosocial) relies on similar or distinct brain regions. Additionally, we explored the topical discussion in the literature on whether vmPFC activity during self-evaluations is induced by valence or importance of traits. Participants evaluated themselves and their mothers on positive and negative traits in three domains. Across all domains, evaluating traits resulted in right dlPFC, left middle temporal cortex, bilateral thalamus, and right insula activity. For physical traits, we found specific neural activity in brain regions typically implicated in mentalizing (dmPFC, IPL). For academic traits, we found a brain region typically implicated in autobiographical memories (PCC), and for prosocial traits, social brain regions (temporal pole, TPJ) were activated. Importantly, these patterns were found for both self and mother evaluations. Regarding valence, rACC/vmPFC showed stronger activation for positive than for negative traits. Interestingly, activation in this region was stronger for highly important traits compared to low/neutral important traits. Thus, this study shows that distinct neural processes are activated for evaluating positive and negative traits in different domains.



Achterberg, M.*, Peper, J. S*., van Duijvenvoorde, A. C., Mandl, R. C. & Crone, E. A. (2016).
Frontostriatal White Matter Integrity Predicts Development of Delay of Gratification: A Longitudinal Study.
Journal of Neuroscience, 36, 1954-1961.
*shared first author

The ability to delay gratification increases considerably across development. Here, we test the hypothesis that this impulse control capacity is driven by increased maturation of frontostriatal circuitry using a fiber-tracking approach combined with longitudinal imaging. In total, 192 healthy volunteers between 8 and 26 years underwent diffusion tensor imaging scanning and completed a delay-discounting task twice, separated by a 2-year interval. We investigated dynamic associations between frontostriatal white matter (WM)integrity and delay of gratification skills. Moreover, we examined the predictive value of frontostriatal WM integrity for future delay of gratification skills. Results showed that delay discounting increases with age in a quadratic fashion, with greatest patience during late adolescence. Data also indicated nonlinear development of frontostriatal WM, with relative fast development during childhood and early adulthood and—on average—little change during mid-adolescence. Furthermore, the positive association between age and delay dis-counting was further increased in individuals with higher WM integrity of the frontostriatal tracts. Predictive analysis showed that frontostriatal WM development explained unique variance in current and future delay of gratification skills. This study adds to a descriptive relation between WM integrity and delay of gratification by showing that maturation of frontostriatal connectivity predicts changes in delay of gratification skills. These findings have implications for studies examining deviances in impulse control by showing that the developmental path between striatum and prefrontal cortex may be an important predictor for when development goes astray.


Achterberg, M., van Duijvenvoorde, A. C., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. & Crone, E. A. (2016).
Control your anger! The neural basis of aggression regulation in response to negative social feedback.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11, 712-720.

Negative social feedback often generates aggressive feelings and behavior. Prior studies have investigated the neural basis of negative social feedback, but the underlying neural mechanisms of aggression regulation following negative social feedback remain largely undiscovered. In the current study, participants viewed pictures of peers with feedback (positive, neutral or negative) to the participant’s personal profile. Next, participants responded to the peer feedback by pressing a button, thereby producing a loud noise toward the peer, as an index of aggression. Behavioral analyses showed that negative feedback led to more aggression (longer noise blasts). Conjunction neuroimaging analyses revealed that both positive and negative feedback were associated with increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) and bilateral insula. In addition, more activation in the right dorsal lateral PFC (dlPFC) during negative feedback vs neutral feedback was associated with shorter noise blasts in response to negative social feedback, suggesting a potential role of dlPFC in aggression regulation, or top-down control over affective impulsive actions. This study demonstrates a role of the dlPFC in the regulation of aggressive social behavior.


Becht, A.I., Nelemans, S.A., Branje, S.J.T., Vollebergh, W.A.M., Koot, Hans M., Denissen, J.J.A. & Meeus, W.H.J. (2016).
The Quest for Identity in Adolescence: Heterogeneity in Daily Identity Formation and Psychosocial Adjustment Across 5 Years.
Developmental Psychology, 52, 2010-2021.

Identity formation is one of the key developmental tasks in adolescence. According to Erikson (1968) experiencing identity uncertainty is normative in adolescence. However, empirical studies investigating identity uncertainty on a daily basis are lacking. Hence, studying individual differences in daily certainty (i.e., identity commitment levels) and uncertainty (i.e., identity commitment fluctuations and identity reconsideration) in the identity formation process may advance our knowledge about the extent to which adolescents’ identity uncertainty is part of normative identity development. Therefore, this longitudinal study examined heterogeneity in certainty and uncertainty dynamics of adolescents’ daily identity formation using a longitudinal microlevel approach. Dutch adolescents (N = 494; Mage = 13.03 years at T1; 56.7% boys) reported on 2 key dimensions of identity formation (i.e., commitment and reconsideration) in both the educational and interpersonal domain on a daily basis for 3 weeks within 1 year, across 5 successive years. Multivariate latent class growth analyses suggested both in the educational and interpersonal identity domain a class of adolescents displaying a “crisis-like” identity formation process, and an “identity synthesis” class. Classes revealed differential development of (global and school) anxiety, aggression, and best friend support. Taken together, the present study confirmed Erikson’s notion that experiencing daily identity uncertainty is common during adolescence. However, a substantial amount of adolescents also showed a process toward identity maturation already during adolescence.


Becht, A.I., Branje, S.J.T., Vollebergh, W.A.M., Maciejewski, D.F., van Lier, P.A.C., Koot, H.M., Denissen, J.J.A. & Meeus, W.H.J. (2016).
Assessment of Identity During Adolescence Using Daily Diary Methods - Measurement Invariance Across Time and Sex.
Psychological Assessment, 28, 660-672.

The aim of this study was to assess measurement invariance of adolescents’ daily reports on identity across time and sex. Adolescents (N = 497; mean age = 13.32 years at Time 1, 56.7% boys) from the general population reported on their identity commitments, exploration in depth and reconsideration on a daily basis for 3 weeks within 1 year across 5 years. We used the single-item version of the Utrecht Management of Identity Commitments Scale (UMICS; Klimstra et al., 2010), a broad measure of identity-formation processes covering both interpersonal and educational identity domains. This study tested configural, metric, scalar, and strict measurement invariance across days within weeks, across sex, across weeks within years, and across years. Results indicated that daily diary reports show strict measurement invariance across days, across weeks within years, across years, and across boys and girls. These results support the use of daily diary methods to assess identity at various time intervals ranging from days to years and across sex. Results are discussed with regard to future implications to study identity processes, both on smaller and larger time intervals.

DOI:  10.1037/pas0000204

Becht, A.I., Prinzie, P., Dekovic, M., van den Akker, A.L. & Shiner, R.L. (2016).
Child personality facets and overreactive parenting as predictors of aggression and rule-breaking trajectories from childhood to adolescence.
Development and Psychopathology, 28, 399-413.

This study examined trajectories of aggression and rule breaking during the transition from childhood to adolescence (ages 9-15), and determined whether these trajectories were predicted by lower order personality facets, overreactive parenting, and their interaction. At three time points separated by 2-year intervals, mothers and fathers reported on their children’s aggression and rule breaking (N = 290, M age = 8.8 years at Time 1). At Time 1, parents reported on their children’s personality traits and their own overreactivity. Growth mixture modeling identified three aggression trajectories (low decreasing, high decreasing, and high increasing) and two rule-breaking trajectories (low and high). Lower optimism and compliance and higher energy predicted trajectories for both aggression and rule breaking, whereas higher expressiveness and irritability and lower orderliness and perseverance were unique risk factors for increasing aggression into adolescence. Lower concentration was a unique risk factor for increasing rule breaking. Parental overreactivity predicted higher trajectories of aggression but not rule breaking. Only two Trait × Overreactivity interactions were found. Our results indicate that personality facets could differentiate children at risk for different developmental trajectories of aggression and rule breaking.

DOI:   10.1017/S0954579415000577