Response of Prefrontal Cortex to Executive Function Tasks in Early Childhood: An Exploratory Case Study for Childcare

  •  Nobuki Watanabe    


Executive function (EF) development is remarkable in early childhood. EF is an ability that provides a foundation for future success; accordingly, supporting children during their early childhood is crucial. So far, there have been many findings on EF in early childhood based on behavioral observation. This exploratory case study examines the measurement of prefrontal cortex activity during the performance of EF tasks using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). This study aims to explore the following hypothesis. (1) The prefrontal cortex during early childhood becomes more active as a task becomes more difficult. (2) However, brain activity decreases and stabilizes as time progresses. (3) The evaluation can be easily measured with two-channel fNIRS. Experimental results showed that the preschooler and the child in lower elementary school displayed high levels of brain activity in the order of increasing difficulty in terms of behavioral indicators. Moreover, the preschooler showed higher levels of reaction than the child in lower elementary school. This result is useful and will broaden the perspectives of scholars in the fields of psychology, pedagogy, and neuroscience, those involved in child support.

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