Posted by: Emily Martinez – Communications Manager – UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders
Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is commonly diagnosed in today’s children and frequently controversial. Physicians and educators have argued for decades about how to identify a child who has the disorder and then, once recognized, how to offer help.
But the research of Dr. Mandy Maguire, PhD, an assistant professor at the Callier Center, may point toward a better understanding of how problems develop. She is studying how response inhibition changes as children grow older. Because children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder often have trouble with impulse control, the studies should shed light on how these problems arise for certain young people.
Maguire is particularly interested in how the ability to inhibit responses differs as tasks become more difficult. Impulse control is increasingly necessary as thinking and learning tasks become more complex throughout childhood.
For a recent study, Maguire’s research team observed volunteers and used brain imaging to monitor the behavior and neural responses of children in two groups — 7 to 8 year olds and 10 to 11 year olds — in three fast tasks that differed in difficulty. By comparing the tasks, she found that both groups had similar reaction times and error rates, the brain responses showed that the older and younger children were using different strategies. Younger children were focused on when to press a button in the experiment, but older children were using an adult-like strategy of looking for when not to press the button.
“The results are important to our understanding of the developmental changes in inhibition that occur in middle-childhood or the ages of 6 to 11,” said Maguire, director of the Developmental Neurolinguistics Laboratory at Callier.