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Mental Health - Neuroscience - Pediatrics and Child Health - Public Health and Epidemiology


Executive Functions of Six-Year-Old Boys with Normal Birth Weight and Gestational Age
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Author: Desiree Yee-Ling Phua et al.

by Desiree Yee-Ling Phua, Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Seang-Mei Saw, Michael J. Meaney, Anqi Qiu

Impaired fetal development, reflected by low birth weight or prematurity, predicts an increased risk for psychopathology, especially attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Such effects cut across the normal range of birth weight and gestation. Despite the strength of existing epidemiological data, cognitive pathways that link fetal development to mental health are largely unknown. In this study we examined the relation of birth weight (>2500 g) and gestational age (37–41 weeks) within the normal range with specific executive functions in 195 Singaporean six-year-old boys of Chinese ethnicity. Birth weight adjusted for gestational age was used as indicator of fetal growth while gestational age was indicative of fetal maturity. Linear regression revealed that increased fetal growth within the normal range is associated with an improved ability to learn rules during the intra/extra-dimensional shift task and to retain visual information for short period of time during the delayed matching to sample task. Moreover, faster and consistent reaction times during the stop-signal task were observed among boys born at term, but with higher gestational age. Hence, even among boys born at term with normal birth weight, variations in fetal growth and maturity showed distinct effects on specific executive functions.
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