Early executive function deficit in preterm children and its association with neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood: A literature review

Jing Sun, Nicholas Buys

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the association of deficits of executive function (EF) and neurodevelopmental disorders in preterm children and the potential of assessing EF in infants as means of early identification. EF refers to a collection of related but somewhat discrete abilities, the main ones being working memory, inhibition, and planning. There is a general consensus that EF governs goal-directed behavior that requires holding those plans or programs on-line until executed, inhibiting irrelevant action and planning a sequence of actions. EF plays an essential role in cognitive development and is vital to individual social and intellectual success. Most researchers believe in the coordination and integrate cognitive – perceptual processes in relation to time and space, thus regulating higher-order cognitive processes, such as problem solving, reasoning, logical and flexible thinking, and decision-making. The importance of the maturation of the frontal lobe, particularly the prefrontal cortex, to the development of EF in childhood has been emphasized. Therefore, any abnormal development in the prefrontal lobes of infants and children could be expected to result in significant deficits in cognitive functioning. As this is a late-maturing part of the brain, various neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, language disorders, and schizophrenia, as well as acquired disorders of the right brain (and traumatic brain injury) impair EF, and the prefrontal cortex may be particularly susceptible to delayed development in these populations. The deficits of EF in infants are persistent into childhood and related to neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood and adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-299
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2012

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