Resistance to extinction: A measure of orbitofrontal function suitable for children?

Keith Happaney, Philip David Zelazo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Extinction of operantly conditioned responses, which provides a measure of the ability to adapt to changes in the reinforcement value of stimuli, has been linked to orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in human and non-human animals. This article examines the feasibility of using extinction as a measure of the development of OFC function in preschool-age children. If extinction serves as a measure of OFC function, resistance to extinction should decrease during this age range. In Part 1, we review the literature on extinction as related to OFC, and summarize what is known regarding age-related changes in extinction in young children. In Part 2, we report results of a study assessing extinction in children between 3 and 6 years of age. Results revealed age-related increases in responding during extinction, with girls (particularly, 6-year-old girls) exhibiting stronger resistance to extinction. Some relations were found with temperament and normative compulsive-like behavior. The findings of this study question the utility of extinction of operant responding as a measure of OFC function in young children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-184
Number of pages14
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes

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