Article

Home assessment of visual working memory in pre-schoolers reveals associations between behaviour, brain activation and parent reports of life stress

Citation

McKay C, Shing YL, Rafetseder E & Wijeakumar S (2021) Home assessment of visual working memory in pre-schoolers reveals associations between behaviour, brain activation and parent reports of life stress. Developmental Science, 24 (4), Art. No.: e13094. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13094

Abstract
Visual working memory (VWM) is reliably predictive of fluid intelligence and academic achievements. The objective of the current study was to investigate individual differences in pre‐schoolers’ VWM processing by examining the association between behaviour, brain function and parent‐reported measures related to the child’s environment. We used a portable functional near‐infrared spectroscopy system to record from the frontal and parietal cortices of 4.5‐year‐old children (N=74) as they completed a colour change‐detection VWM task in their homes. Parents were asked to fill in questionnaires on temperament, academic aspirations, home environment, and life stress. Children were median‐split into a low‐performing (LP) and a high‐performing (HP) group based on the number of items they could successfully remember during the task. LPs increasingly activated channels in the left frontal and bilateral parietal cortices with increasing load, whereas HPs showed no difference in activation. Our findings suggest that LPs recruited more neural resources than HPs when their VWM capacity was challenged. We employed mediation analyses to examine the association between the difference in activation between the highest and lowest loads and variables from the questionnaires. The difference in activation between loads in the left parietal cortex partially mediated the association between parent‐reported stressful life events and VWM performance. Critically, our findings show that the association between VWM capacity, left parietal activation, and indicators of life stress is important to understand the nature of individual differences in VWM in pre‐school children.

Keywords
fNIRS; Home testing; Individual differences; Life stress; Pre‐school children; Visual Working Memory

Journal
Developmental Science: Volume 24, Issue 4

StatusPublished
Publication date31/07/2021
Publication date online01/02/2021
Date accepted by journal01/02/2021
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/32245
ISSN1363-755X
eISSN1467-7687