Brain networks underlying attention are present even during infancy and are critical for the developing ability of children to control their emotions and thoughts. For adults, individual differences in the efficiency of attentional networks have been related to neuromodulators and to genetic variations. We have examined the development of attentional networks and child temperament in a longitudinal study from infancy (7 months) to middle childhood (7 years). Early temperamental differences among infants, including smiling and laughter and vocal reactivity, are related to self-regulation abilities at 7 years. However, genetic variations related to adult executive attention, while present in childhood, are poor predictors of later control, in part because individual genetic variationmay have many small effects and in part because their influence occurs in interaction with caregiver behavior and other environmental influences. While brain areas involved in attention are present during infancy, their connectivity changes and leads to improvement in control of behavior. It is also possible to influence control mechanisms through training later in life. The relation between maturation and learning may allow advances in our understanding of human brain development.
This article describes the development, reliability, and factor structure of a finely differentiated (18 dimensions) parent-report measure of temperament in 1.5 to 3-year-old children, using a cross-sectional sample (N = 317) and a longitudinal sample of primary (N = 104) and secondary (N = 61) caregivers. Adequate internal consistency was demonstrated for all scales and moderate inter-rater reliability was evident for most scales. Longitudinal stability correlations were primarily large over 6- and 12-month spans and moderate to large from 18 to 36 months. Factor analysis revealed a three-factor structure of Surgency/Extraversion, Negative Affectivity, and Effortful Control. In both samples and for both primary and secondary caregivers, older children received higher scores for Attention Focusing, Discomfort, Inhibitory Control, and Positive Anticipation. Primary caregivers rated females higher in Fear, and lower in High-intensity Pleasure, than males; secondary caregivers rated females higher than males in several aspects of Effortful Control.
The use of meditation to improve emotion and attention regulation has a long history in Asia and there are many practitioners in Western countries. Much of the evidence on the effectiveness of meditation is either anecdotal or a comparison of long-term meditators with controls matched in age and health. Recently, it has been possible to establish changes in self-regulation in undergraduate students after only 5 days of meditation practice, allowing randomized trials comparing effects of meditation with other self-control methods such as relaxation training. Early studies took place in Chinese universities; however, similar effects have been obtained with U.S. undergraduates, and with Chinese children aged 4.5 years and older Chinese participants aged 65 years. Studies using neuroimaging techniques have shown that meditation improves activation and connectivity in brain areas related to self-regulation, and these findings may provide an opportunity to examine remediation of mental disorders in a new light.
meditation; IBMT; self-regulation; life span
Studies using fMRI at rest and during task performance have revealed a set of brain areas and their connections that can be linked to the ability of children to regulate their thoughts, actions and emotions. Higher self-regulation has also been related favorable outcomes in adulthood. These findings have set the occasion for methods of improving self-regulation via training. A tool kit of such methods is now available. It remains to be seen if educators will use these new findings and tools to forge practical methods for improving the lives of the world's children.
Alerting network; Brain connectivity; Executive network; Orienting network; Self regulation
Hebb and Vygotsky are two of the most influential figures of psychology in the first half of the 20th century. They represent cultural and biological approaches to explaining human development, and thus a number of their ideas remain relevant to current psychology and cognitive neuroscience. In this paper we examine similarities and differences between these two important figures, exploring possibilities for a theoretical synthesis between their two literatures, which have had little contact each other. To pursue these goals the following topics are discussed: 1) Hebb and Vygotsky’s lives and training; 2) their innovations in theory building relating to an “objective psychology” and objective science of mind, 3) their developmental approach, 4) their treatment of mediation and neuropsychology and 5) their current relevance and possible integration of their views. We argue that considering the two together improves prospects for a more complete and integrated approach to mind and brain in society.
Development; Hebb; Cell-assembly; Integrated science of mind; Luria; Mediation; Mind and mental activity; Neuropsychology; Vygotsky
Children show increasing control of emotions and behavior during their early years. Our studies suggest a shift in control from the brain's orienting network in infancy to the executive network by the age of 3–4 years. Our longitudinal study indicates that orienting influences both positive and negative affect, as measured by parent report in infancy. At 3–4 years of age, the dominant control of affect rests in a frontal brain network that involves the anterior cingulate gyrus. Connectivity of brain structures also changes from infancy to toddlerhood. Early connectivity of parietal and frontal areas is important in orienting; later connectivity involves midfrontal and anterior cingulate areas related to executive attention and self-regulation.
attention; connectivity; development; orienting
To investigate whether temperament in 1.5-year-olds predicts their consumption of potentially obesogenic foods and drinks at ages 3 and 7 years.
Participants were 6 997 mothers and infants from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. Questionnaires were collected during pregnancy, at birth, and at child ages 6 months and 1.5, 3, and 7 years. Predictor variables: children’s temperament at age 1.5 (internalizing, externalizing, surgent) and mothers’ negative affectivity. Outcome variables: children’s consumption of sweet foods, sweet drinks, and fruits/vegetables at ages 3 and 7 (dichotomized at the 85th percentile).
Controlling for covariates, internalizing 1.5-year-olds (anxious, dependent) were 77% and 63% more likely to consume sweet drinks daily at ages 3 and 7, respectively; they were 55% and 43% more likely to consume sweet foods daily at ages 3 and 7, respectively. Externalizing 1.5-year-olds (hyperactive, aggressive) were 34% more likely to consume sweet drinks daily at age 7, 39% and 44% more likely to consume sweet foods daily at ages 3 and 7, respectively, and they were 47% and 33% less likely to consume fruits/vegetables daily at ages 3 and 7, respectively. Surgent 1.5-year-olds (active, sociable) were 197% and 78% more likely to consume two portions of fruits/vegetables daily at ages 3 and 7, respectively. The association of maternal negative affectivity was limited to the child’s consumption of sweet foods at 3 and 7 years.
Early child temperament is a risk factor for obesogenic diet in later childhood. Mechanisms explaining this association need to be explored.
child; temperament; obesity; diet; eating
The concept of self-regulation is central to the understanding of human development. Self-regulation allows effective socialization and predicts both psychological pathologies and levels of achievement in schools. What has been missing are neural mechanisms to provide understanding of the cellular and molecular basis for self-regulation. We show that self-regulation can be measured during childhood by parental reports and by self-reports of adolescents and adults. These reports are summarized by a higher order factor called effortful control, which reflects perceptions about the ability of a given person to regulate their behavior in accord with cultural norms. Throughout childhood effortful control is related to children’s performance in computerized conflict related tasks. Conflict tasks have been shown in neuroimaging studies to activate specific brain networks of executive attention. Several brain areas work together at rest and during cognitive tasks to regulate competing brain activity and thus control resulting behavior. The cellular structure of the anterior cingulate and insula contain cells, unique to humans and higher primates that provide strong links to remote brain areas. During conflict tasks, anterior cingulate activity is correlated with activity in remote sensory and emotional systems, depending upon the information selected for the task. During adolescence the structure and activity of the anterior cingulate has been found to be correlated with self-reports of effortful control.
Studies have provided a perspective on how genes and environment act to shape the executive attention network, providing a physical basis for self-regulation. The anterior cingulate is regulated by dopamine. Genes that influence dopamine levels in the CNS have been shown to influence the efficiency of self-regulation. For example, alleles of the COMT gene that influence the efficiency of dopamine transmission are related to the ability to resolve conflict. Humans with disorders involving deletion of this gene exhibit large deficits in self-regulation. Alleles of other genes influencing dopamine and serotonin transmission have also been found to influence ability to resolve conflict in cognitive tasks. However, as is the case for many genes, the effectiveness of COMT alleles in shaping self-regulation depends upon cultural influences such as parenting. Studies find that aspects of parenting quality and parent training can influence child behavior and the efficiency of self-regulation.
During development, the network that relates to self-regulation undergoes important changes in connectivity. Infants can use parts of the self-regulatory network to detect errors in sensory information, but the network does not yet have sufficient connectivity to organize brain activity in a coherent way. During middle childhood, along with increased projection cells involved in remote connections of dorsal anterior cingulate and prefrontal and parietal cortex, executive network connectivity increases and shifts from predominantly short to longer range connections. During this period specific exercises can influence network development and improve self-regulation. Understanding the physical basis of self-regulation has already cast light on individual differences in normal and pathological states and gives promise of allowing the design of methods to improve aspects of human development.
Attention; genetic alleles; neural networks; self-regulation
The dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4) 7-repeat allele has been found to interact with environmental factors such as parenting in children and peer attitudes in adults to influence aspects of behavior such as risk taking. We previously found that in toddlers, lower-quality parenting in combination with the 7-repeat allele of the DRD4 gene was associated with greater parent-reported Sensation Seeking (SS), but was unrelated to Effortful Control (EC). We now report findings from a followup assessment with the same sample of children showing that parenting quality interacts with the presence of the 7-repeat allele to predict EC in 3-to 4-year-old children. The change in these patterns of results may reflect the increased role of the executive attention network in older children and adults. However, due to the small sample size (N = 52) and the novelty of the results, these findings should be treated with caution and considered preliminary until they are replicated in an independent sample.
Although the study of brain states is an old one in neuroscience, there has been growing interest in brain state specification owing to MRI studies tracing brain connectivity at rest. In this review, we summarize recent research on three relatively well-described brain states: the resting, alert, and meditation states. We explore the neural correlates of maintaining a state or switching between states, and argue that the anterior cingulate cortex and striatum play a critical role in state maintenance, whereas the insula has a major role in switching between states. Brain state may serve as a predictor of performance in a variety of perceptual, memory, and problem solving tasks. Thus, understanding brain states is critical for understanding human performance.
In adults most cognitive and emotional self-regulation is carried out by a network of brain regions, including the anterior cingulate, insula and areas of the basal ganglia, related to executive attention. We propose that during infancy control systems depend primarily upon a brain network involved in orienting to sensory events that includes areas of the parietal lobe and frontal eye fields. Studies of human adults and alert monkeys show that the brain network involved in orienting to sensory events is moderated primarily by the nicotinic cholinergic system arising in the nucleus basalis. The executive attention network is primarily moderated by dopaminergic input from the ventral tegmental area. A change from cholinergic to dopaminergic modulation would be a consequence of this switch of control networks and may be important in understanding early development. We trace the attentional, emotional and behavioral changes in early development related to this developmental change in regulative networks and their modulators.
This study investigated whether infants’ temperament at 18 months is associated with the feeding of foods and drinks that may increase the risk for later obesity.
This was a cross-sectional study of mothers and infants (N = 40,266) participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Data were collected by questionnaire. Predictor variables were: infants’ temperament at 18 months (internalizing, externalizing, and surgency/extraversion), and mothers’ negative affectivity. Outcomes variables were feeding of sweet foods, sweet drinks, and night-time caloric drinks at 18 months (all dichotomized). Confounders were child’s gender, weight-for-height at 18 months, breastfeeding, and mother’s level of education.
After controlling for confounders, infant temperament dimensions at 18 months were significantly associated with mothers’ feeding of potentially obesogenic foods and drinks independent of mothers’ negative affectivity. Infants who were more internalizing were more likely to be given sweet foods (OR 1.47, CI 1.32–1.65), sweet drinks (OR 1.76, CI 1.56–1.98), and drinks at night (OR 2.91, CI 2.54–3.33); infants who were more externalizing were more likely to be given sweet food (OR 1.53, CI 1.40–1.67) and sweet drinks (OR 1.22, CI 1.11–1.34); and infants who were more surgent were more likely to be given drinks at night (OR1.66, CI 1.42–1.92).
The association between infant temperament and maternal feeding patterns suggests early mechanisms for later obesity that should be investigated in future studies.
infant temperament; sweet foods; sweet drinks; night-time caloric drinks
Research in cognitive neuroscience now considers the state of the brain prior to the task an important aspect of performance. Hypnosis seems to alter the brain state in a way which allows external input to dominate over internal goals. We examine how normal development may illuminate the hypnotic state.
Attention influences many aspects of cognitive development. Variations in the COMT gene, known to affect dopamine neurotransmission, have frequently been found to influence attention in adults and older children. In this paper we examined 2 year old children and found that variation in the COMT gene influenced attention in a task involving looking to a sequence of visual stimuli. Because the influence of another dopamine related gene (DRD4) has been shown to interact with parenting quality at this age, we explored parenting in relation to variations in the COMT gene. Variations in COMT interacted with parenting quality to influence our attention measure. The Val108/158Met polymorphism of COMT is commonly used to determine allelic groups, but recently haplotypes of several polymorphisms within this gene have been shown to do a better job in reflecting perceived pain. Since attention and pain both involve the activation of the anterior cingulate gyrus in imaging studies, we compared the Val108/158Met influence with the COMT haplotypes and found the latter to be more predictive of attention. Our results confirm that important aspects of cognitive development including attention depend on the interaction of genes and early environment.
The higher order structure of temperament was examined in two studies using the Adult Temperament Questionnaire. Because previous research showed robust levels of convergence between Rothbart’s constructs of temperament and the Big Five factors, we hypothesized a higher order two-factor model of temperament based on Digman’s higher order two-factor model of personality traits derived from factor analysis of the Big Five factors. Study 1 included 258 undergraduates. Digman’s model did not fit the data well, so we conducted an exploratory two-factor solution. One factor included extraversion/positive emotionality, orienting sensitivity, and affiliativeness, and the other, negative affect versus effortful control content. This two-factor model of temperament model diverged from the Digman model only on the agreeableness-affiliativeness loadings. Study 2 involved a community sample of 700 participants. Confirmatory factor analysis supported the alternative model found in Study 1. Findings are discussed in relation to research on attention and emotion.
temperament; personality; Big Five
Tasks involving conflict are widely used to study executive attention. In the flanker task, a target stimulus is surrounded by distracting information that can be congruent or incongruent with the correct response. Developmental differences in the time course of brain activations involved in conflict processing were examined for 22 four year old children and 18 adults. Subjects performed a child-friendly flanker task while their brain activity was registered using a high-density electroencephalography system.
General differences were found in the amplitude and time course of event-related potentials (ERPs) between children and adults that are consistent with their differences in reaction time. In addition, the congruency of flankers affected both the amplitude and latency of some of the ERP components. These effects were delayed and sustained for longer periods of time in the children compared to the adults.
These differences constitute neural correlates of children's greater difficulty in monitoring and resolving conflict in this and similar tasks.