PhD Scientific Days 2024

Budapest, 9-10 July 2024

Mental Health Sciences I.

The Transient Tale of Cognitive Abilities: Longitudinal Analysis of Pubertal Maturity's Impact on Adolescent Cognitive Development


Gyöngyi Oláh1, Kristóf Kovács2, Patrícia Gerván1,2, Katinka Utczás3, Zsófia Tróznai3, Andrea Berencsi4, Hanna Szakács5, Ferenc Gombos1,5, Ilona Kovács1,2
1: HUN-REN-ELTE-PPKE Adolescent Development Research Group
2: Institute of Psychology, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, Faculty of Education and Psychology
3: Research Centre for Sport Physiology, University of Physical Education
4: Institute for the Methodology of Special Needs Education and Rehabilitation, Bárczi Gusztáv Faculty of Special Needs Education, Eötvös Loránd University
5: Laboratory for Psychological Research, Pázmány Péter Catholic University

Text of the abstract

Adolescence is marked by significant biological, social, and cognitive transformations. The onset of puberty triggers rapid synaptic pruning in the prefrontal cortex, leading to more efficient cognitive processing and improvement in control network-mediated cognitive functions throughout adolescence with significant individual variability.
Based on the results by Kovács et al. (2022) and Gerván et al. (2024), which highlighted the influence of biological age and pubertal maturity on cognitive development, this study investigates the lasting effects of objectively assessed pubertal maturity on cognitive functions over time.
We used ultrasonic bone age (BA) assessment to determine participants' biological age
(N=65, f; age at T1 M=13.58, SD=0.89; at T2 M=18.32, SD=0.88). At Time 1 (T1), individuals were categorized into decelerated, average, and accelerated pubertal status groups based on their relative maturity, calculated as the difference between their BA and chronological age (CA). Cognitive abilities were assessed with WISC-IV at T1 and T2.
At T1, we found that BA significantly influenced performance in Working Memory (WM) and Processing Speed within the same CA groups, with better performance at higher maturity levels. There were no significant differences in cognitive abilities at T2 between maturity groups, apart from marginal differences in WM improvements between accelerated and average groups. A moderate negative correlation between BA and changes in WM scores from T1 to T2 suggested that higher maturity levels correlated with less improvement in WM performance during later development. Utilizing a Gompertz model to analyze cognitive performance, we found that despite different cognitive growth rates between groups, the developmental trajectories converge by late adolescence, indicating that the early advantages are transient.
These findings underscore the importance of recognizing transient developmental variations, which might position adolescents outside standard ranges, advocating for the integration of bone age assessment in educational settings to support students at different developmental stages.

The project was funded by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office of Hungary (Grant K-134370 to Prof. Ilona Kovács) and by the Hungarian Research Network (HUN-REN- ELTE-PPKE Adolescent Development Research Group)