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Journal: Child neuropsychology : a journal on normal and abnormal development in childhood and adolescence


Hyperactivity is a key symptom and the most observable manifestation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The over-activity associated with ADHD can cause specific challenges in academic settings, extracurricular activities and social relationships. Cognitive control challenges are also well established in ADHD. The current study included 44 children between the ages of 10 and 17 diagnosed with ADHD or who were typically developing (TD), all of whom had no psychiatric co-morbidity or significant learning disorders. Participants wore an actometer on their ankle while performing a flanker paradigm in order to objectively measure their rates of activity in association with cognitive control. Analyses assessed the relationship between frequency and intensity of activity to task accuracy on a trial-by-trial basis. A significant interaction effect between group and performance revealed that more intense movement was associated with better performance in the ADHD group but not in the TD group. The ADHD group demonstrated more intense activity than the TD group during correct (but not error) trials. Within-group, children with ADHD generated higher intensity movements in their correct trials compared to their error trials, whereas the TD group did not demonstrate any within-group differences. These findings suggest that excessive motoric activity associated with clinically significant ADHD symptoms may reflect compensatory efforts to modulate attention and alertness. Future research should systematically explore the relationship between motion in ADHD and how it might be used to improve cognitive performance.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Educational psychology, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Hyperactivity, Mental disorder, Amphetamine, Learning disability


The current study investigated morphological differences in the corpus callosum in children ages 8 to 18 years old with nonverbal learning disability (NLD; n = 19), high-functioning autism (HFA; n = 23), predominantly inattentive ADHD (ADHD:PI; n = 23), and combined type ADHD (ADHD:C; n = 25), as well as those demonstrating typical development (n = 57). Midsagittal area of the corpus callosum and five midsagittal anterior-to-posterior corpus callosum segments were examined using magnetic resonance imaging. Controlling for midsagittal brain area and age, no group differences were found for total corpus callosum area. This finding indicates that higher functioning children on the autistic spectrum do not have smaller corpus callosi as has been found in previous research with heterogeneous samples. Following segmentation of the corpus callosum, the NLD group was observed to have significantly smaller splenia compared to all other groups. Smaller splenia in the NLD group was associated with lower WASI PIQ scores but not WASI VIQ scores. Children with HFA were observed to have larger midbody areas than children with NLD and neurotypically developing children. Children with HFA and NLD demonstrated behavioral symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity similar to the ADHD groups indicating that corpus callosum differences seen in the NLD and HFA groups are not related to these behaviors.

Concepts: Brain, Magnetic resonance imaging, Autism, Corpus callosum, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD predominantly inattentive, Asperger syndrome, Nonverbal learning disorder


Spina bifida myelomeningocele (SBM) is a neural tube defect that has been related to deficits in several cognitive domains including attention. Attention function in children with SBM has often been studied using tasks that are confounded by complex motor demands or tasks that do not clearly distinguish perceptual from response-related components of attention. We used a verbal-report paradigm based on the Theory of Visual Attention ( Bundesen, 1990 ) and a new continuous performance test, the Dual Attention to Response Task ( Dockree et al., 2006 ), for measuring parameters of selective and sustained attention in 6 children with SBM and 18 healthy control children. The two tasks had minimal motor demands, were functionally specific and were sensitive to minor deficits. As a group, the children with SBM were significantly less efficient at filtering out irrelevant stimuli. Moreover, they exhibited frequent failures of sustained attention and response control in terms of omission errors, premature responses, and prolonged inhibition responses. All 6 children with SBM showed deficits in one or more parameters of attention; for example, three patients had elevated visual perception thresholds, but large individual variation was evident in their performance patterns, which highlights the relevance of an effective case-based assessment method in this patient group. Overall, the study demonstrates the strengths of a new testing approach for evaluating attention function in children with SBM.

Concepts: Spina bifida


The aim of the present study was to investigate the ability of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder-combined subtype (ADHD-C) and predominantly inattentive subtype (ADHD-PI) to direct their attention and to exert cognitive control in a forced attention dichotic listening (DL) task. Twenty-nine, medication-naive participants with ADHD-C, 42 with ADHD-PI, and 40 matched healthy controls (HC) between 9 and 16 years were assessed. In the DL task, two different auditory stimuli (syllables) are presented simultaneously, one in each ear. The participants are asked to report the syllable they hear on each trial with no instruction on focus of attention or to explicitly focus attention and to report either the right- or left-ear syllable. The DL procedure is presumed to reflect different cognitive processes: perception (nonforced condition/NF), attention (forced-right condition/FR), and cognitive control (forced-left condition/FL). As expected, all three groups had normal perception and attention. The children and adolescents with ADHD-PI showed a significant right-ear advantage also during the FL condition, while the children and adolescents in the ADHD-C group showed a no-ear advantage and the HC showed a significant left-ear advantage in the FL condition. This suggests that the ADHD subtypes differ in degree of cognitive control impairment. Our results may have implications for further conceptualization, diagnostics, and treatment of ADHD subtypes.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Perception, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD predominantly inattentive, Concept, Dichotic listening


Based on a review of the literature, the diagnostic criteria used for children with nonverbal learning disabilities (NLD) were identified as follows: (a) low visuospatial intelligence; (b) discrepancy between verbal and visuospatial intelligence; © visuoconstructive and fine-motor coordination skills; (d) visuospatial memory tasks; (e) reading better than mathematical achievement; and (f) socioemotional skills. An analysis of the effect size was used to investigate the strength of criteria for diagnosing NLD considering 35 empirical studies published from January 1980 to February 2011. Overall, our results showed that the most important criteria for distinguishing children with NLD from controls were as follows: a low visuospatial intelligence with a relatively good verbal intelligence, visuoconstructive and fine-motor coordination impairments, good reading decoding together with low math performance. Deficits in visuospatial memory and social skills were also present. A preliminary set of criteria for diagnosing NLD was developed on these grounds. It was concluded, however, that-although some consensus is emerging-further research is needed to definitively establish shared diagnostic criteria for children with NLD.

Concepts: Diagnosis, Educational psychology, Learning, Disability, Reading, Learning disabilities, Nonverbal learning disorder


Working memory (WM) capacity is highly correlated with general cognitive ability and has proven to be an excellent predictor for academic success. Given that WM can be improved by training, our aim was to test whether WM training benefited academic abilities in elementary-school children. We examined 28 participants (mean age = 8.3 years, SD = 0.4) in a pretest-training-posttest-follow-up design. Over 14 training sessions, children either performed adaptive WM training (training group, n = 14) or nonadaptive low-level training (active control group, n = 14) on the same tasks. Pretest, posttest, and follow-up at 3 months after posttest included a neurocognitive test battery (WM, task switching, inhibition) and standardized tests for math and reading abilities. Adaptive WM training resulted in larger training gains than nonadaptive low-level training. The benefits induced by the adaptive training transferred to an untrained WM task and a standardized test for reading ability, but not to task switching, inhibition, or performance on a standardized math test. Transfer to the untrained WM task was maintained over 3 months. The analysis of individual differences revealed compensatory effects with larger gains in children with lower WM and reading scores at pretest. These training and transfer effects are discussed against the background of cognitive processing resulting from WM span training and the nature of the intervention.

Concepts: Psychology, Neurocognitive, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Educational psychology, Test, Standardized test


Human infants are “wired” to respond to social information, an important capacity for survival. The ability to discriminate vocal emotion in others is likely to play a key role in successful social interactions with caregivers, which facilitate the rapid social-communicative development that infants typically undergo in the latter half of their first year. Infants have voice-sensitive brain regions that have been shown previously to be responsive to emotional prosody by 7 months. This study aimed to investigate the developmental trajectory of vocal emotion processing in temporal regions using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure brain sensitivity to angry, happy, and neutral vocalizations in the same infant at 6, 9, and 12 months. We found significant and increasing temporal cortical activation in response to vocal emotional stimuli over the three time points, suggesting consistent enhanced responses for happy compared to angry vocalizations, and vocal anger sensitivity is developing incrementally. The findings suggest that the neural processing of angry and happy prosody may follow distinct developmental pathways and is gradually “tuned” to become specialized between 6 and 12 months. This first longitudinal study of vocal emotion brain processing between 6 and 12 months highlights the need for more research to understand what drives typical and atypical social cognitive development across infancy and for follow-up into the second year.


Interest in measuring executive function skills in young children in low- and middle-income country contexts has been stymied by the lack of assessments that are both easy to deploy and scalable. This study reports on an initial effort to develop a tablet-based battery of executive function tasks, which were designed and extensively studied in the United States, for use in Kenya. Participants were 193 children, aged 3-6 years old, who attended early childhood development and education centers. The rates of individual task completion were high (65-100%), and 85% of children completed three or more tasks. Assessors indicated that 90% of all task administrations were of acceptable quality. An executive function composite score was approximately normally distributed, despite higher-than-expected floor and ceiling effects on inhibitory control tasks. Children’s simple reaction time (β = -0.20, p = .004), attention-related behaviors during testing (β = 0.24, p = .0005), and age (β = -0.24, p = .0009) were all uniquely related to performance on the executive function composite. Results are discussed as they inform efforts to develop valid and reliable measures of executive function skills among young children in developing country contexts.


Cognitive neuroscience models suggest both reward valuation and cognitive control contribute to reward-based decision-making. The current study examined the relationship between cognitive control and delay discounting (i.e., choosing smaller, immediate over larger, delayed rewards) in a large sample of boys and girls diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; N = 95) and typically developing control children (TD; N = 59). Specifically, we examined performance on multiple measures of cognitive control (i.e., Go/No-Go task, Stop Signal task, and Spatial Span task) and delay discounting (i.e., Classic Delay Discounting and Real-Time Delay Discounting tasks), as well as the relationship between these measures. Results indicated that sex moderated the effects of group on task performance. Specifically, girls with ADHD, but not boys with the disorder, exhibited atypical delay discounting of real-time rewards. Results from correlational analyses indicated that delay discounting and cognitive control were not significantly correlated in the overall sample. Multiple regression analyses demonstrated that among girls with ADHD poorer spatial working memory and inhibitory control predicted greater real-time discounting. Collectively, findings provide support for distinct patterns of cognitive control and delay discounting among school-aged girls and boys with ADHD. Additionally, findings suggest that among girls with ADHD, those who exhibit relatively poor working memory and inhibitory control might be a particularly vulnerable subgroup with the greatest propensity to exhibit maladaptive decision-making.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Attention, Cognitive psychology, Neuroscience, Cognition, Cognitive science, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Working memory


Intra-individual variability (IIV) is defined as systematic within-person variation in performance either across test sessions (e.g., test/retest performance on the same task) or in one session (e.g., variations in performance on multiple trials of a single task). Higher levels of IIV have been noted as a characteristic of neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder​ (ADHD), but IIV is yet to be investigated in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). FASD is a term used to describe a range of conditions resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol. As part of a comprehensive neuropsychological battery, four study groups (1. fetal alcohol syndrome/partial fetal alcohol syndrome; 2. static encephalopathy/alcohol exposed; 3. neurobehavioral disorder/alcohol exposed as diagnosed using the University of Washington FASD 4-Digit Code; 4. typically-developing (TD) age-matched children with no prenatal alcohol exposure) were administered measures of motor response and inhibitory control, attention, and adaptive behavior. The results indicate increased levels of IIV in those with FASD compared to the TD controls. It was found that IIV uniquely contributes to predicting adaptive behavior above and beyond attention, while attention partially mediates the relationship between IIV and adaptive behavior. This is the first study to the authors' knowledge to show the presence of increased IIV in children with FASD. It additionally provides evidence that IIV measures some inherent variability in performance independent of poor attention in children with FASD.

Concepts: Alcohol, Pregnancy, Prenatal development, Mental retardation, Fetal alcohol syndrome, Microcephaly