Targeting cognitive control to reduce anxiety in very young children: A proof of concept study

Hans S. Schroder, Ka I. Ip, Jessica L. Hruschak, Faith Horbatch, Melissa Hall, Yanni Liu, Kristin Mannella, Maria Muzik, Kate L. Rosenblum, Jason S. Moser, Kate D. Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Underdeveloped cognitive control (CC)—the capacity to flexibly adjust to changing environments—may predispose some children to early onset anxiety disorders and represents a promising intervention target. The current study established and pilot-tested “Camp Kidpower”—a novel group-based, interactive CC training intervention—and assessed its impacts on behavioral and neurophysiological indices of CC among preschool children with elevated anxiety symptoms. Methods: Forty-four anxious children (4–6 years) were enrolled in Camp Kidpower, delivered in four sessions over 10 days. Before and after camp, children's capacity for CC was measured using well-validated, non-trained behavioral tasks and error-related negativity (ERN). Child anxiety symptoms were measured by parent report on the Spence Preschool Anxiety Scale. Results: Thirty-two children completed the study, as defined by completion of pre- and follow-up assessments and at least three camp sessions. From baseline to after camp, performance on behavioral tests of CC improved, ERN amplitude increased, and anxiety symptoms decreased. Conclusion: Results provide initial evidence that play-based cognitive training targeted to behavioral and brain markers of CC reduces anxiety in preschoolers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)646-656
Number of pages11
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • ERN
  • anxiety
  • cognitive control
  • intervention
  • preschool


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