We tested whether adolescents with daily high identity uncertainty showed differential structural brain development across adolescence and young adulthood. Participants (N = 150, MageT1 15.92 years) were followed across three waves, covering 4 years. Self-reported daily educational identity and structural brain data of lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC)/anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), medial PFC, and nucleus accumbens (NAcc) was collected across three waves. All hypotheses were pre-registered. Latent class growth analyses confirmed 2 identity subgroups: an identity synthesis class (characterized by strong commitments, and low uncertainty), and an identity moratorium class (high daily identity uncertainty). Latent growth curve models revealed, on average, delayed maturation of the lateral PFC/ACC and medial PFC and stable NAcc. Yet, adolescents in identity moratorium showed lower levels and less decline in NAcc gray matter volume. Lateral PFC/ACC and medial PFC trajectories did not differ between identity subgroups. Exploratory analyses revealed that adolescents with higher baseline levels and delayed maturation of lateral PFC/ACC and medial PFC gray matter volume, surface area, and cortical thickness reported higher baseline levels and stronger increases of in-depth exploration. These results provide insight into how individual differences in brain development relate to fluctuations in educational identity development across adolescence and young adulthood.

Structural brain development, Adolescent identity formation, Medial PFC, Lateral PFC/ACC, Nucleus accumbens, Longitudinal
dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2020.100880, hdl.handle.net/1765/131528
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Becht, A.I, Klapwijk, E.T., van der Cruijsen, R., Spaans, J., van der Aar, L., Peters, S., … Crone, E.A.M. (2020). Longitudinal associations between structural prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens development and daily identity formation processes across adolescence. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 46. doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2020.100880