Revealing hot executive function in children with motor coordination problems: What's the go?

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Abstract

Recent research suggests that children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) often show deficits in executive functioning (EF) and, more specifically, the ability to use inhibitory control in ‘hot’, emotionally rewarding contexts. This study optimized the assessment of sensitivity of children with DCD to emotionally significant stimuli by using easily discriminable emotional expressions in a go/no-go task. Thirty-six children (12 with DCD), aged 7–12 years, completed an emotional go/no-go task in which neutral facial expressions were paired with either happy or sad ones. Each expression was used as both, a go and no-go target in different runs of the task. There were no group differences in omission errors; however, the DCD group made significantly more commission errors to happy no-go faces. The particular pattern of performance in DCD confirms earlier reports of (hot) EF deficits. Specifically, a problem of inhibitory control appears to underlie the atypical pattern of performance seen in DCD on both cold and hot EF tasks. Disrupted coupling between cognitive control and emotion processing networks, such as fronto-parietal and fronto-striatal networks, may contribute to reduced inhibitory control in DCD. The implications for a broader theoretical account of DCD are discussed, as are implications for intervention.

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