Impaired executive functioning in young adults born very preterm

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2007 Jul;13(4):571-81. doi: 10.1017/S1355617707070725. Epub 2007 May 18.


Individuals born very preterm (VPT) are at increased risk of perinatal brain injury and long-term cognitive and behavioral problems. Executive functioning, in particular, has been shown to be impaired in VPT children and adolescents. This study prospectively assessed executive function in young adults who were born VPT (<33 weeks of gestation) [n = 61; mean age, 22.25 (+/-1.07) years; range, 20.62-24.78 years] and controls [n = 64; mean age, 23.20 (+/-1.48) years; range, 19.97-25.46 years]. Tests used comprised the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI), the Hayling Sentence Completion Test (HSCT), the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT), the Animal and Object test, the Trail-Making Test (TMT), and the Test of Attentional Performance (TAP). VPT participants showed specific executive function impairments in tasks involving response inhibition and mental flexibility, even when adjusting for IQ, gender, and age. No significant associations were observed between executive function test scores and perinatal variables or neonatal ultrasound classification. The results suggest that, although free from major physical disability, VPT young adults perform worse than controls on tasks involving selective aspects of executive processing, such as mental flexibility and response inhibition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intelligence
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Problem Solving / physiology*