The effect of preterm birth and low birth weight on visual attention in adults
56.315, Tuesday, May 14, 2:45 - 6:45 pm, Royal Ballroom 6-8
Adrian von Muhlenen1, Nicole Baumann1, Dieter Wolke1; 1Department of Psychology, University of Warwick
Preterm birth and low birth weight has been associated with an increased risk of cognitive, behavioral and psychiatric problems. In this study we examine how these problems are linked to specific attentional networks. Based on a sample from the Bavarian Longitudinal Study we compared a cohort of 121 survivors born very preterm (<32 weeks gestational age, GA) or very-low-birth-weight (VLBW <1500g) in 1985/86 (mean birth weight, 1323g; mean GA at birth, 30.3 weeks; 53% male) with 129 controls from the same population in Bavaria (mean birth weight, 3402g; mean GA at birth, 39.7 weeks; 47% male). Participants simply had to discriminate the orientation (left, right) of an arrow. The arrival of the arrow could be indicated by an alerting tone, its location (top, bottom) could be indicated by a spatial cue, and the arrow was always presented among other flanker arrows that were either congruent or incongruent. Each of these manipulation allowed to assess a separate component of attention: alerting, orienting and executive control (Fan et al., 2002, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience). The RT index, representing efficiency for each attentional network (i.e., RT difference for tone present-absent, for cue valid-invalid, and for flanker congruent-incongruent) was calculated separately for each group. The VLBW group showed a large and highly significant deficit in the executive network and a smaller but significant deficit in the orienting network, but no deficit in the alerting network. Although RTs were generally longer for VLBW, the RT index result did not change when using RT ratio scores. Multiple regression analysis further showed that gender and IQ can to some degree but not entirely account for this deficit in executive control. These results show that VLBW is linked to specific attentional deficiencies, especially those involving executive control.