Early adversity and neural correlates of executive function: implications for academic adjustment

Authors: McDermott JM, Westerlund A, Zeanah CH, Nelson CA, Fox NA.

Date: 2012

Abstract: Early adversity can negatively impact the development of cognitive functions, although little is known about whether such effects can be remediated later in life. The current study examined one facet of executive functioning Рinhibitory control Рamong children who experienced institutional care and explored the impact of a foster care intervention within the context of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP). Specifically, a go/nogo task was administered when children were eight years old and behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) measures were collected. Results revealed that children assigned to care as usual (i.e. institutional care) were less accurate and exhibited slower neural responses compared to children assigned to the foster care intervention and children who had never been institutionalized. However, children in both the care as usual and foster care groups exhibited diminished attention processing of nogo cues as assessed via P300 amplitude. Foster care children also showed differential reactivity between correct and error responses via the error-related negativity (ERN) as compared to children in the care as usual group. Combined, the results highlight perturbations in neural sources of behavioral and attention problems among children experiencing early adversity. Potential implications for academic adjustment in at risk children are discussed.

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