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O-059 Impaired Executive Functions In Complex Tasks In Children And Adolescents Born Very Preterm
  1. F Wehrle1,
  2. B Latal2,
  3. R Huber2,
  4. R O’Gorman3,
  5. L Kaufmann4,
  6. A Hüsser5,
  7. C Verrey5,
  8. C Hagmann1
  1. 1Division of Neonatology, University Hospital of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  2. 2Child Development Center, University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  3. 3Center for MR Research, University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  4. 4Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy A, General Hospital, Hall in Tyrol, Austria
  5. 5Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland


Introduction Many studies have found impaired performance in executive functions (EF) in children born very preterm (VPT) [1]. EF play a pivotal role for academic achievement and personal autonomy. Demands in both domains and, in parallel, the dependence on EF ability in daily life continuously increase in later childhood and adolescence [2].

Methods Forty-one VPT children/adolescents between 10 and 16 years with normal general cognitive abilities and 43 healthy term-born (TB) peers were examined. Parents reported on their children’s EF ability in the home and school environment using the Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Functions, BRIEF. Additionally, computer-based testing using the CANTAB test battery provided objective measures of executive functioning.

Results Parents of VPT children rated EF abilities of their children poorer than parents of TB children, with 10–20% of all VPT children experiencing clinically relevant EF problems vs. none of the TB children. In computerised EF tests, an interaction between birth status and task difficulty was found for various EF components: Performance of VPT and TB children was comparable in lower but poorer in higher difficulty levels for VPT children (e.g., Fig. 1 for planning accuracy).

Abstract O-059 Figure 1

VPT participants solve significantly fewer trials as the level of planning demands increases

Conclusions Executive function difficulties in VPT children and adolescents become more pronounced with increasing task demands. As EF demands in daily life become more complex in later childhood and adolescence, EF deficits may hinder optimal development in former VPT children.


  1. for a review : Aarnoudse-Moens et al., Pediatrics 2009; Mulder et al., Dev Neuropsychol 2009

  2. Burnett et al., Eary Hum Dev 2013

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