Dynamic links between emerging cognitive skills and brain processes

Dennis L. Molfese, Victoria J. Molfese, Jennifer Beswick, Jill Jacobi-Vessels, Peter J. Molfese, Alexandra P.F. Key, Gillian Starkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The goal of the present study was to investigate whether advanced cognitive skills in one domain impact the neural processing of unrelated skills in a different cognitive domain. This question is related to the broader issue of how cognitive-neurodevelopment proceeds as different skills are mastered. To address this goal, event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were used to assess linkages between cognitive skills of preschool children as reflected in their performance on a pre-reading screening test (Get Ready To Read) and their neural responses while engaged in a geometric shape matching task. Sixteen children (10 males) participated in this study. The children ranged from 46 to 60 months (SD = 4.36 months). ERPs were recorded using a 128-electrode high-density array while children attended to presentations of matched and mismatched shapes (triangles, circles, or squares). ERPs indicated that children with more advanced pre-reading skills discriminated between matched and mismatched shapes earlier than children with poorer pre-readings skills. The earlier discrimination effect observed in the advanced group was localized over the occipital electrode sites whereas in the Low Group such effects were present over frontal, parietal, and occipital sites. Modeled magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of the ERP component sources identified differences in neural generators between the two groups. Both sets of findings support the hypothesis that processing in a poorer-performing group is more distributed temporally and spatially across the scalp, and reflects the engagement of more distributed brain regions. These findings are seen as support for a theory of neural-cognitive development that is advanced in the present article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)682-706
Number of pages25
JournalDevelopmental Neuropsychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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