Changes in Behavior and Salivary Cortisol After Targeted Cognitive Training in Typical 12-Month-Old Infants

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Previous research has suggested that early development may be an optimal period to implement cognitive training interventions, particularly those relating to attention control, a basic ability that is essential for the development of other cognitive skills. In the present study, we administered gaze-contingent training (95 min across 2 weeks) targeted at voluntary attention control to a cohort of typical 12-month-old children (N = 24) and sham training to a control group (N = 24). We assessed training effects on (a) tasks involving nontrained aspects of attention control: visual sustained attention, habituation speed, visual recognition memory, sequence learning, and reversal learning; (b) general attentiveness (on-task behaviors during testing); and (c) salivary cortisol levels. Assessments were administered immediately after the cessation of training and at a 6-week follow-up. On the immediate posttest infants showed significantly more sustained visual attention, faster habituation, and improved sequence learning. Significant effects were also found for increased general attentiveness and decreased salivary cortisol. Some of these effects were still evident at the 6-week follow-up (significantly improved sequence learning and marginally improved sustained attention). These findings extend the emerging literature showing that attention training is possible in infancy.

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