Theoretical perspectives of cognitive development have maintained that functional integration of the prefrontal cortex across infancy underlies the emergence of attentional control and higher cognitive abilities in early childhood. To investigate these proposed relations, we tested whether functional integration of prefrontal regions across the second half of the first year predicted observed cognitive performance in early childhood 1 year prior indirectly through observed attentional control (N = 300). Results indicated that greater change in left-but not right-frontal EEG coherence between 5 and 10 months was positively associated with attentional control, cognitive flexibility, receptive language, and behavioral inhibitory control. Specifically, a larger increase in coherence between left frontal regions was positively associated with accuracy on a visual search task at Age 2, and visual search accuracy was positively associated with receptive vocabulary, performance on a set-shifting task (DCCS), and delay of gratification at Age 3. Finally, the indirect effects from the change in left frontal EEG coherence to 3-year cognitive flexibility, receptive language, and behavioral inhibitory control were significant, suggesting that internally controlled attention is a mechanism through which early neural maturation influences children's cognitive development.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by Grants HD049878 and HD043057 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) awarded to Martha Ann Bell. The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NICHD or the National Institutes of Health. We are grateful to the families for their participation in our research. The assistance of our Blacksburg and Greensboro research assis- tants with data collection and coding is greatly appreciated.
© 2016 American Psychological Association.
- EEG coherence
- Early childhood
- Frontal lobe