Children aged 4-5 years (N = 48), selected for low-to-moderate parent-reported EC skills, were age- and gender-matched into training and passive control groups. Children completed baseline assessments 1-2 weeks prior to completing targeted EC training, and post-assessments 1-2 weeks following the training. Training activities were developed based on existing school readiness interventions and consisted of small- and large-group exercises practicing performance-based EC tasks (e.g., Red Light Purple Light, Simon Says). Multimethod assessment was used to evaluate EC skills at multiple levels of analysis (i.e., neural, behavioral, and informant-reported). Behavioral measures were drawn from the NIH Toolbox for Executive Functioning and included other commonly used measures to assess motor inhibition and attention. Parent-reported measures included the Child Behavior Checklist and Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning. Children also completed neurophysiological assessments using developmentally appropriate versions of response inhibition tasks.
Mixed Repeated Measure ANOVA results indicated that training groups exhibited improvements in several tasks that were not practiced in training, and better parent-reported inhibition as compared to control groups. However, effects of training-induced changes in EC were small across method. This contrasts with results from previous training studies using similar measures that reported changes in behavioral and neural measures that were larger in effect. The present results are consistent with more recent reviews demonstrating that computer-based cognitive training targeting working memory and other EC-related skills do not produce significant effects of improved cognitive abilities, attention, EC-related skills, behavior, or academic functioning in children and young adults. Findings support the need for more studies integrating multiple methods in order to identify more sensitive measurements of EC during this critical period of development.