Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Dr. Rhodri Cusack


The executive control network (ECN) is critical for higher cognition and executive function (EF). Despite its importance, no scientific consensus has been reached on how and when it begins to function. In the present study, we assessed the development of the ECN in awake infants less than a year old by employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and naturalistic stimuli. First, we identified evocative movies that engaged infant attention. We then transferred them into adult imaging to test for which movie evoked the highest ECN response. Strong ECN responses were evoked while viewing Despicable Me, therefore we implemented this movie into infant imaging. We found that as early as 3-months of age, infants showed a similar response to that of adults. Overall, we demonstrated a technique that could potentially gauge EF in very young infants and developed a tool capable of imaging awake infants under natural conditions.