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Adriano Linzarini

Ph. D


Ph.D student

Paris Descartes University

Cognitive control and development : generality and automatization of the inhibitory processes

Co-supervised by Olivier Houdé & Grégoire Borst

Abstract :

The objective of this thesis was to investigate the question of the domain-generality of inhibitory control and its automatization throughout development. This question has been approached by various experimental studies in children, adolescents and adults. Three studies have focused on the generality of control processes operating in tasks belonging to different cognitive domains. In the first study, we wanted to answer two questions related to the discrepancies found in the literature on the development of inhibitory control in affectively charged contexts. The aim of this study was to determine (a) whether cool inhibition (control processes in emotionally neutral contexts) and hot inhibition (control processes in emotionally charged contexts) follow the same developmental pattern, and (b) the degree of specificity of these two types of inhibitory control throughout development. We thus compared the performance of 10-year-olds, 13-year-olds and 21-year-olds to an emotionally neutral color-word Stroop task and an emotional Stroop task. In a second study on 9-year-old children, we tested whether the inhibitory processes involved in a classical Piagetian conservation task (i.e., logico-mathematical domain) were identical or partially identical to those involved in the resolution of the classical neuropsychological color-word Stroop task (i.e., verbal domain). In a third study, we tested on a group of 10-year-old children and a group of 20-year-old young adults the transferability of inhibitory processes between a mirror letters discrimination task (that has recently been shown to require inhibition) and a color-word Stroop task, to determine (a) whether the resolution of a conflict at an early perceptual stage of the processing stream (recognition of visual symbols) can facilitate the resolution of a conflict arising at a much later stage (semantic and motor levels), and (b) if age affects this transferability. Then we looked at the automaticity of the inhibition processes by testing whether inhibitory control can operate completely unconsciously on conflicts arising between two subliminal interfering stimuli. To this end, we designed a priming paradigm consisting of trials in which a subliminal reverse Stroop item preceded a visible Stroop item. The aim of this paradigm was to verify the presence of a conflict adaptation effect and a negative priming effect produced by the subliminal items on the visible items. These two effects are commonly reported in studies using visible stimuli and suggest a transfer of control processes from the prime to the probe. Finally, in a fifth study, we investigated whether inter-individual differences in inhibitory control are in part due to prenatal processes, based on the analysis of the sulcal pattern, considered as a qualitative feature of the cerebral anatomy that is determined during fetal life and is stable during development. Using anatomical magnetic resonance imaging, we analyzed the correlations between the performance on a color-word Stroop task and the sulcal pattern of two key regions of the inhibitory control neural network, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the inferior frontal sulcus (which limits the lower frontal gyrus) in a group of 10-year-old children and in a group of 22-year-old adults. In conclusion, this thesis sheds new light on the question of the generality and the automatization of the inhibitory control processes from a developmental perspective.


Aïte, A., Cassotti, M., Linzarini, A., Osmont, A., Houdé, O., & Borst, G. (2018). Adolescents’ inhibitory control: keep it cool or lose control. Developmental Science, 21, e12491.

Tissier, C., Linzarini, A., Allaire-Duquette, G., Mevel, K., Poirel, N., Dollfus, S., Etard, O., Orliac, F., Peyrin, C., Charron, S., Raznahan, A., Houdé, O., Borst, G., & Cachia, A. (2018). Sulcal Polymorphisms of the IFC and ACC Contribute to Inhibitory Control Variability in Children and Adults. ENeuro, 5(1), ENEURO.0197-17.2018.


Linzarini, A. (2017) Développement et contrôle cognitifs : généralité et automatisation des processus inhibiteurs. [Doctoral dissertation, Université Paris Descartes]

Linzarini, A., Houdé, O., & Borst, G. (2017). Cognitive control outside of conscious awareness. Consciousness and Cognition, 53, 185–193.

Linzarini, A., Houdé, O., Borst, G. (2015). When Stroop helps Piaget: An inter-task positive priming paradigm in 9-year-old children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 139, 71–82. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2015.05.010

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