Neurophysiological correlates of executive function: A comparison of european-canadian and chinese-canadian 5-year-old children

Ayelet Lahat, Rebecca M. Todd, Caitlin Emma Victoria Mahy, Karen Lau, Philip David Zelazo

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60 Scopus citations


This study explored the neurophysiological correlates of executive function (EF) in young children from two different cultural backgrounds. Twenty European-Canadian and 17 Chinese-Canadian 5-year-olds participated in a go/no-go task, during which high-density electroencephalographic (EEG) data were recorded. No cultural group differences were observed in children's behavioral performance on the task, but marked differences were revealed by ERP analyses, which focused on the amplitude and latency of the N2 waveform. Chinese-Canadian children showed larger (i.e., more negative) N2 amplitudes than European-Canadian children on the right side of the scalp on no-go trials, as well as on the left side of the scalp on go trials, and for all children, larger N2 amplitudes were associated with faster median reaction times. Source analyses of the N2 were consistent with the hypothesis that compared to European-Canadian children, Chinese-Canadian children showed more activation in dorsomedial, ventromedial, and (bilateral) ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. These fi ndings reveal that EEG can provide a measure of cultural differences in neurocognitive function that is more sensitive than behavioral data alone; that Chinese-Canadian children show a pattern of hemispheric differentiation in the context of this task than that is more pronounced than that of age-matched European-Canadian children; that the asymmetrically lateralized N2 may be a reliable marker of both effortful inhibition (on the right) and effortful approach (on the left); and that the neural correlates of EF may vary across samples of healthy participants, even in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number72
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberJAN
StatePublished - Jan 8 2010


  • Children
  • Culture
  • Executive function
  • Go/no-go
  • N2


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