Mikkola, K., Wetzel, N., Leipälä, J., Serenius-Sirve, S., Schröger, E., Huotilainen, M., & Fellman, V. (2010). Behavioral and evoked potential measures of distraction in 5-year-old children born preterm. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 77(1), 8-12.

Behavioral and evoked potential measures of distraction in 5-year-old children born preterm

Executive and attention dysfunctions are common in very preterm children. We studied their involuntary attention process by using behavioral measurements and auditory event-related potentials (AERP) with a distraction paradigm at age five years. The active task was to distinguish between two animal sounds. As an irrelevant feature the sounds were presented from frequent (standard) or infrequent (deviant, 11%) direction from two loudspeakers. Of the 28 preterm children, only 75% could accomplish the task, whereas all full-term children (n=15) could. When distinguishing the animal sounds, the reaction times were longer to the sounds from the deviant than from the standard direction in both groups, indicating involuntary distraction. The hit rates for the sounds from standard and deviant directions were similar in both groups. AERP amplitudes in the P1 interval and in the P3a interval elicited by standard and deviant stimuli were smaller in the preterm than in the control children. Deviants elicited P3a (indicating attentional orienting) and reorienting negativity (indicating attentional reorienting after distraction) in both groups. Comparable involuntary attentional orienting, distraction, and reorienting suggest similar maturation processes in 5-year-old preterm and full-term children. However, smaller AERP amplitudes in P1 and P3a interval suggest altered processing of auditory stimuli in those born preterm. As one-fourth of the preterm children could not accomplish the paradigm, less demanding paradigms should be used in studying children with increased distractibility.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
Institute of Psychology
Neumarkt 9-19
D-04109 Leipzig


Dagmar Schrödl
Phone: +49 341 97-39570
Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

Fax: +49 341 97-39271