Does the child brain rest? An examination and interpretation of resting cognition in developmental cognitive neuroscience

M. Catalina Camacho, Laura E. Quiñones-Camacho, Susan B. Perlman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In cognitive neuroscience, measurements of “resting baseline” are often considered stable across age and used as a reference point against which to judge cognitive state. The task-based approach—comparing resting baseline to task conditions—implies that resting baseline is an equalizer across participants and—in the case of studies of developmental changes in cognition—across age groups. In contrast, network neuroscience explicitly examines the development of “resting state” networks across age, at odds with the idea of a consistent resting baseline. Little attention has been paid to how cognition during rest may shift across development, particularly in children under the age of eight. Childhood is marked by striking maturation of neural systems, including a protracted developmental period for cognitive control systems. To grow and shape these cognitive systems, children have a developmental imperative to engage their neural circuitry at every possible opportunity. Thus, periods of “rest” without specific instructions may require additional control for children as they fight against developmental expectation to move, speak, or otherwise engage. We therefore theorize that the child brain does not rest in a manner consistent with the adult brain as longer rest periods may represent increased cognitive control. To shape this theory, we first review the extant literature on neurodevelopment across early childhood within the context of cognitive development. Next, we present nascent evidence for a destabilized baseline for comparisons across age. Finally, we present recommendations for designing, analyzing, and interpreting tasks conducted with young children as well as for resting state. Future work must aim to tease apart the cognitive context under which we examine functional brain development in young children and take considerations into account unique to each age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116688
StatePublished - May 15 2020


  • Baselines
  • Brain development
  • Cognitive development
  • Early childhood
  • Resting state


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