Training, maturation, and genetic influences on the development of executive attention
A neural network underlying attentional control involves the anterior cingulate in addition to lateral prefrontal areas. An important development of this network occurs between 3 and 7 years of age. We have examined the efficiency of attentional networks across age and after 5 days of attention training (experimental group) compared with different types of no training (control groups) in 4-year-old and 6-year-old children. Strong improvement in executive attention and intelligence was found from ages 4 to 6 years. Both 4- and 6-year-olds showed more mature performance after the training than did the control groups. This finding applies to behavioral scores of the executive attention network as measured by the attention network test, event-related potentials recorded from the scalp during attention network test performance, and intelligence test scores. We also documented the role of the temperamental factor of effortful control and the DAT1 gene in individual differences in attention. Overall, our data suggest that the executive attention network appears to develop under strong genetic control, but that it is subject to educational interventions during development.