Executive functions of children born very preterm--deficit or delay?

Ritter, Barbara Catherine; Nelle, Mathias; Perrig, Walter J.; Steinlin, Maja; Everts, Regula (2013). Executive functions of children born very preterm--deficit or delay? European journal of pediatrics, 172(4), pp. 473-483. Berlin: Springer-Verlag 10.1007/s00431-012-1906-2

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This cross-sectional study examined the performance of children born very preterm and/or at very low birth weight (VPT/VLBW) and same-aged term-born controls in three core executive functions: inhibition, working memory, and shifting. Children were divided into two age groups according to the median (young, 8.00-9.86 years; old, 9.87-12.99 years). The aims of the study were to investigate whether (a) VPT/VLBW children of both age groups performed poorer than controls (deficit hypothesis) or caught up with increasing age (delay hypothesis) and (b) whether VPT/VLBW children displayed a similar pattern of performance increase in executive functions with advancing age compared with the controls. Fifty-six VPT/VLBW children born in the cohort of 1998-2003 and 41 healthy-term-born controls were recruited. All children completed tests of inhibition (Color-Word Interference Task, Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS)), working memory (Digit Span Backwards, HAWIK-IV), and shifting (Trail Making Test, Number-Letter Sequencing, D-KEFS). Results revealed that young VPT/VLBW children performed significantly poorer than the young controls in inhibition, working memory, and shifting, whereas old VPT/VLBW children performed similar to the old controls across all three executive functions. Furthermore, the frequencies of impairment in inhibition, working memory and shifting were higher in the young VPT/VLBW group compared with the young control group, whereas frequencies of impairment were equal in the old groups. In both VPT/VLBW children and controls, the highest increase in executive performance across the ages of 8 to 12 years was observed in shifting, followed by working memory, and inhibition.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Endocrinology (DFKE) > Clinic of Paediatric Medicine
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Psychological and Behavioral Health
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory (CCLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Ritter, Barbara, Nelle, Mathias, Perrig, Walter, Steinlin, Maja, Everts, Regula


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Anette van Dorland

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:40

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:12

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Web of Science ID:





https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/16523 (FactScience: 224176)

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