Event-related Potential Measures of Executive Functioning from Preschool to Adolescence – Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology


Executive functions are a collection of cognitive abilities necessary for behavioural control and regulation, and are important for school success. Executive deficits are common across acquired and developmental disorders in childhood and beyond. This review aims to summarize how studies using event-related potential (ERP) can provide insight into mechanisms underpinning how executive functions develop in children from preschool to adolescence. We specifically focus on ERP components that are considered to be well-established markers of executive functioning, including the ability to resist distraction (inhibition, N200), hold scenes in mind (visuospatial working memory, contralateral delay activity), attend to specific stimuli (information processing, P300), follow rules (response monitoring, error-related negativity [ERN], and error-related positivity [Pe]), and adjust to feedback (outcome monitoring, feedback-related negativity). All of these components show developmental changes from preschool to adolescence, in line with behavioural and neuroimaging findings. These ERP markers also show altered developmental trajectories in the context of atypical executive functions. As an example, deficits in executive function are prominently implicated in attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder. Therefore, this review highlights ERP studies that have investigated the above ERP components in this population. Overall, ERPs provide a useful marker for the development and dysfunction of executive skills, and provide insight into their neurophysiological basis.

SOURCE: Downes, Michelle; Bathelt, Joe and De Haan, Michelle. “Event-related Potential Measures of Executive Functioning from Preschool to Adolescence.” Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology [First published online: 6 February 2017]

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