Background Preterm birth has been associated with an increased risk of cognitive, behavioral and psychiatric problems. In this study we examine how these problems are linked to specific attentional networks.
Methods Based on a sample from the Bavarian Longitudinal Study we compared a cohort of 97 survivors born very preterm (< 32 weeks gestational age, GA) or very-low-birth-weight (VLBW < 1500g) in 1985/86 (mean birth weight, 1318g; mean GA at birth, 30.2 weeks; 52% male) with 109 controls from the same population in Bavaria (mean birth weight, 3414g; mean GA at birth, 39.7 weeks; 48% male). We looked at performance in the attention network test, developed by Fan et al. (2002, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience), in three anatomically defined attentional networks: alerting, orienting and executive control.
Results The figure shows the RT index, representing efficiency for each attentional network. The VLBW group showed a large and highly significant deficit in the executive network and a smaller but significant deficit in the orienting network, but no deficit in the alerting network. Although RTs were generally longer for VLBW, the RT index result did not change when using RT ratio scores.
Conclusions The results show that VLBW is linked to specific attentional deficiencies, especially those involving executive control. These results are discussed in the light of the literature on VLBW and attention.
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