Using information from research on the neuroplasticity of selective attention and on the central role of successful parenting in child development, the authors of this study developed and assessed a family-based training program designed to improve brain systems for selective attention in preschool children. One hundred forty-one lower socioeconomic status preschoolers enrolled in a Head Start program were randomly assigned to the training program, Head Start alone, or an active control group. Electrophysiological measures of children’s brain functions supporting selective attention, standardized measures of cognition, and parent-reported child behaviors all favored children in the treatment program relative to both control groups. Positive changes were also observed in the parents themselves. Effect sizes ranged from one-quarter to half of a standard deviation. These results support further development and broader implementation of evidence-based education programs that target at-risk families.

Neville HJ, Stevens C, Pakulak E, Bell TA, Fanning J, Klein S and Isbell E: Family-based training program improves brain function, cognition, and behavior in lower socioeconomic status preschoolers. PNAS 110(29): 12138-12143 (2013).

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