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Publisher: Journals Gateway
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2016) 28 (11): 1688–1699.
Published: 01 November 2016
AbstractView article PDF
There is a long-standing interest in the determinants of successful learning in children. “Grit” is an individual trait, reflecting the ability to pursue long-term goals despite temporary setbacks. Although grit is known to be predictive of future success in real-world learning situations, an understanding of the underlying neural basis and mechanisms is still lacking. Here we show that grit in a sample of 6-year-old children ( n = 55) predicts the working memory improvement during 8 weeks of training on working memory tasks ( p = .009). In a separate neuroimaging analysis performed on a partially overlapping sample ( n = 27), we show that interindividual differences in grit were associated with differences in the volume of nucleus accumbens (peak voxel p = .021, x = 12, y = 11, z = −11). This was also confirmed in a leave-one-out analysis of gray matter density in the nucleus accumbens ( p = .018). The results can be related to previous animal research showing the role of the nucleus accumbens to search out rewards regardless of delays or obstacles. The results provide a putative neural basis for grit and could contribute a cross-disciplinary connection of animal neuroscience to child psychology.