Lisa Delalande



Ph.D student

Paris Descartes University

Study of the effects of inhibitory control training on cognitive development and school learning in children: a behavioural and MRI study

Supervised by Grégoire Borst and Gregory Simon.

ABSTRACT : Every day, to choose an action while adapting flexibly to our environment we have to use high-level cognitive processes called executive functions. There are three main executive functions: inhibitory control, working memory and cognitive flexibility. These executive functions are involved in all cognitive activities and social interactions. They are also a predictor of academic and professional success. These executive functions develop from childhood to adulthood in relation to the cerebral maturation of the prefrontal cortex. Given their role in cognitive development and school learning, many studies have attempted to determine (a) the extent to which training improve the executive abilities of children, adolescents, and young adults, and (b) to what extent improving executive abilities is beneficial for other cognitive abilities (far transfer). While some studies have demonstrated that working memory, inhibitory control or cognitive flexibility training produce near and far transfers, there are still a limited number of studies that investigated the behavioural effects of training inhibitory control in school-aged children and the neuroplasticity mechanisms that underlie potential improvements in inhibitory control abilities. In our study, we used an experimental method classically used in educational psychology to evaluate the effects on behavioral and on the brain structure (cortical thickness, surface area, gyrification) of a 5 weeks inhibition training on tablet. Sixty children from 9 to 10 years of age participated in a pretest (cognitive assessment-1 and MRI-1), followed by a 5-week training, 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week at home (on tablet), and to an immediate post-test (at the end of the training, Cognitive Assessment-2 and MRI-2). We compared two groups of children: a group in which inhibitory control was trained (experimental group: Stroop and stop-signal) and a group that was trained to answer vocabulary and general knowledge questions (active control group). We analyzed (1) the effects of near and far transfer induced by the cognitive training in both groups of children, (2) the receptivity to training, that is to say: the rate of progression and the influence of the motivation throughout the training on the transfer effects, and finally (3) the macroscopic changes observed at the anatomical level following these trainings in children and adolesents.

Key words : inhibitory control, training, development, aMRI, brain plasticity, children, school learning

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Delalande, L., Moyon, M., Tissier, C., Dorrière, V., Guillois, B., Mevel, K., Charron, S., Salvia, E., Poirel, N., Vidal, J ., Lion, S., Oppenheim, C., Houdé, O., Cachia, A., Borst, G. (2019). Complex and subtle structural changes in prefrontal cortex induced by inhibitory control training from childhood to adolescence. Developmental Science, Article e12898.

Delalande, L. (2018). Étude des effets de l'entraînement du contrôle inhibiteur sur le développement cognitif et les apprentissages scolaires chez l'enfant : étude comportementale et en IRM. [Doctoral dissertation, Université Paris Descartes].