Frontiers of Medicine

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 164–173 | Cite as

Comparison in executive function in Chinese preterm and full-term infants at eight months

  • Yao Feng
  • Hong Zhou
  • Yan Zhang
  • Anthony Perkins
  • Yan Wang
  • Jing Sun
Research Article


Executive function (EF) is increasingly recognized as being responsible for adverse developmental outcomes in preterm-born infants. Several perinatal factors may lead to poor EF development in infancy, and the deficits in EF can be identified in infants as young as eight months. A prospective cohort study was designed to study the EF in Chinese preterm infants and examine the relationship between EF in preterm infants and maternal factors during perinatal period. A total of 88 preterm infants and 88 full-term infants were followed from birth to eight months (corrected age). Cup Task and Planning Test was applied to assess the EF of infants, and the Bayley Scale of Infant Development (BSID-III) was used to evaluate cognitive (MDI) and motor abilities (PDI) of infants. In comparison with full-term infants, the preterm infants performed more poorly on all measures of EF including working memory, inhibition to prepotent responses, inhibition to distraction, and planning, and the differences remained after controlling the MDI and PDI. Anemia and selenium deficiency in mothers during pregnancy contributed to the differences in EF performance. However, maternal depression, hypertension, and diabetes during pregnancy were not related to the EF deficits in preterm infants. Future research should focus on the prevention of anemia and selenium deficiency during pregnancy and whether supplementing selenium in mothers during pregnancy can prevent further deterioration and the development of adverse outcomes of their offspring.


executive function (EF) preterm infant working memory inhibition to prepotent response inhibition to distraction planning 


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This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81202216) and Beijing Higher Education Young Elite Teacher Project (No. YETP0059), People’s Republic of China. We want to thank the research teams from Peking University Third Hospital and Haidian Maternal and Child Health Hospital in Beijing for their orchestration of fieldwork and identification of the study population. We are grateful for the endeavors made by each member in our study, including Yao Feng, Hong Zhou, Yan Wang, Yan Zhang, Fang Ye, Wenxing Bai, Peng Li, Anqi Wang, Xi Wang, Peige Song, Ping Duan, Shusheng Luo, Zhenghong Ren, and Chuyun Kang (Division of Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health, Peking University), Jing Sun (Menzies Health Institute Queensland and School of Medicine, Griffith University, Australia), Yongmei Chen, Qi Yan, Zhi Li (Haidian Maternal and Child Health Hospital in Beijing), Shan Lu and Yuan Wei (Peking University Third Hospital).


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Child, Adolescent and Women’s Health, School of Public HealthPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Menzies Health Institute QueenslandGriffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia
  3. 3.School of MedicineGriffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia

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