Poor executive functioning in children born very preterm: Using dual-task methodology to untangle alternative theoretical interpretations

L. Delane, D.M. Bayliss, C. Campbell, C. Reid, N. French, M. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Two alternative theoretical explanations have been proposed for the difficulties with executive functioning observed in children born very preterm (VP; ⩽32 weeks): a general vulnerability (i.e., in attentional and processing capacities), which has a cascading impact on increasingly complex cognitive functions, and a selective vulnerability in executive-level cognitive processes. It is difficult to tease apart this important theoretical distinction because executive functioning tasks are, by default, complex tasks. In the current study, an experimental dual-task design was employed to control for differences in task difficulty in order to isolate executive control. Participants included 50 VP children (mean age = 7.29 years) and 39 term peer controls (mean age = 7.28 years). The VP group exhibited a greater dual-task cost relative to controls despite experimental control for individual differences in baseline ability on the component single tasks. This group difference also remained under a condition of reduced task difficulty. These results suggest a selective vulnerability in executive-level processes that can be separated from any general vulnerability. © 2016 Elsevier Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-277
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume152
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2016

Keywords

  • attention
  • cascade model
  • cognition
  • development
  • dual-task
  • executive function
  • very preterm children

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