Individual differences in ERP measures of executive function in early childhood: Relation to low-risk preterm birth and parent-reported behavior

Amanda S. Hodel, Jane E. Brumbaugh, Ruskin H. Hunt, Sara E. Van Den Heuvel, Anika M. Wiltgen, Kathleen M. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although behavioral studies have demonstrated that executive function (EF) develops rapidly during early childhood, few studies have investigated neural systems supporting EF during the preschool years. These systems are sensitive to variations in children’s early life experiences, including preterm birth. The current study collected behavioral and event related potential (ERP) data during an EF task (directional Stroop) in a sample of 150 full-term and low-risk preterm children aged 4-years. Children’s IQ and processing speed (WPPSI-III), and parent report of EF (BRIEF-P), were also measured. Forty-nine children born full-term and 43 low-risk preterm children provided useable ERP data. Similar to prior studies with adults and older children, preschool-aged children showed modulation of ERP components (N2, P3) by cognitive conflict. Effects of trial type were also present for early attentional components (N1 and P2). Exploratory analyses demonstrated that ERP measures of EF were correlated with individual differences in cognitive and behavioral functioning in both full-term and low-risk preterm populations. Future research investigating the neural correlates of early measures of EF in low-risk preterm children and other at-risk groups is warranted to better understand how trajectories of EF development are altered in the first years of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)914-942
Number of pages29
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 3 2019



  • ERP
  • Executive function
  • cognitive conflict
  • directional Stroop
  • preterm birth

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