Mürner-Lavanchy, Ines; Ritter, Barbara; Spencer-Smith, M. M.; Perrig, Walter J.; Schroth, G.; Steinlin, M.; Everts, R. (2014). Visuospatial working memory in very preterm and term born children - Impact of age and performance. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 9, pp. 106-116. Elsevier 10.1016/j.dcn.2014.02.004
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Working memory is crucial for meeting the challenges of daily life and performing academic tasks, such as reading or arithmetic. Very preterm born children are at risk of low working memory capacity. The aim of this study was to examine the visuospatial working memory network of school-aged preterm children and to determine the effect of age and performance on the neural working memory network. Working memory was assessed in 41 very preterm born children and 36 term born controls (aged 7–12 years) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and neuropsychological assessment. While preterm children and controls showed equal working memory performance, preterm children showed less involvement of the right middle frontal gyrus, but higher fMRI activation in superior frontal regions than controls. The younger and low-performing preterm children presented an atypical working memory network whereas the older high-performing preterm children recruited a working memory network similar to the controls. Results suggest that younger and low-performing preterm children show signs of less neural efficiency in frontal brain areas. With increasing age and performance, compensational mechanisms seem to occur, so that in preterm children, the typical visuospatial working memory network is established by the age of 12 years.