Cognitive control in children with learning disabilities: neuromarker for deficient executive functions

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The neural underpinnings of learning disabilities (LD) are still not known. Recent discussions focus over whether domain-specific and/or domain-unspecific reasons might be responsible for LD either alone or in combination with each other. This study applied standard nonverbal Go-NoGo tasks (visual continuous performance test) to LD and healthy control children to examine whether they show deficient executive functions. During this Go-NoGo task, electroencephalogram was measured in addition to reaction times, hits, omissions, and commissions to the Go and NoGo stimuli. It was shown that children with LD reacted slower with variable responses to Go stimuli and made more omission errors in comparison with the healthy control children. The analysis of the event-related potential indicated that the deficient behavior in this task is associated with smaller – and in part nonexistent – P3d amplitudes. This neural activation indicates a different neural activation pattern during action inhibition in LD children. The neural networks involved in controlling action inhibition are mostly located in frontal brain areas, for which it has been shown that children with LD show neural activation deficiencies. This is possibly a consequence of a maturational delay of the frontal cortex.

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