To explore the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying individual differences in executive function during the preschool years, high-density electroencephalography (EEG) was used to record event-related potentials (ERPs) from 99 children (between 35 and 54 months of age) during performance on the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS), a widely used measure of executive function in which participants are required to sort bivalent stimuli first by one dimension and then by another. ERP analyses comparing children who switched flexibly (passed) to those who perseverated on post-switch trials (failed) focused on the N2 component, which was maximal over fronto-central sites. N2 amplitude was smaller (less negative) for children who passed the DCCS than for children who failed, suggesting that the N2, often associated with conflict monitoring, may serve as a neural marker of individual differences in executive function. Implications for learning and education are discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding for this research was provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation , the Canada Research Chairs Program, and the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota . We thank Cheryl Leung, Shintula Wijeya, and Xenia Zheng for their assistance in data collection. We especially thank Katherine I. Murray and Jim Steiben, whose work on an earlier version of this study informed the research reported here.
- Cognitive flexibility
- Conflict monitoring
- Executive function