Attentional Processes in Children With Attentional Problems or Reading Difficulties as Revealed Using Brain Event-Related Potentials and Their Source Localization

Authors: Gopalan, P.R.S., Loberg, O., Lohvansuu, K., McCandliss, B., Hamalainen, J.A. and Leppanen, P.H.T.

Journal: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Publisher: Frontiers Media

ISSN: 1662-5161

DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00160


Visual attention-related processes include three functional sub-processes: alerting, orienting, and inhibition. We examined these sub-processes using reaction times, event-related potentials (ERPs), and their neuronal source activations during the Attention Network Test (ANT) in control children, attentional problems (AP) children, and reading difficulties (RD) children. During the ANT, electroencephalography was measured using 128 electrodes on three groups of Finnish sixth-graders aged 12–13 years (control = 77; AP = 15; RD = 23). Participants were asked to detect the direction of a middle target fish within a group of five fish. The target stimulus was either preceded by a cue (center, double, or spatial), or without a cue, to manipulate the alerting and orienting sub-processes of attention. The direction of the target fish was either congruent or incongruent in relation to the flanker fish, thereby manipulating the inhibition sub-processes of attention. Reaction time performance showed no differences between groups in alerting, orienting, and inhibition effects. The group differences in ERPs were only found at the source level. Neuronal source analysis in the AP children revealed a larger alerting effect (double-cued vs. non-cued target stimuli) than control and RD children in the left occipital lobe. Control children showed a smaller orienting effect (spatially cued vs. center-cued target stimuli) in the left occipital lobe than AP and RD children. No group differences were found for the neuronal sources related to the inhibition effect. The neuronal activity differences related to sub-processes of attention in the AP and RD groups suggest different underlying mechanisms for attentional and reading problems.

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