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Research Project: Impact of Maternal Influence and Early Dietary Factors on Child Growth, Development, and Metabolic Health

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Title: Effect of obesity on inhibitory control in preadolescents during stop-signal task. An event-related potentials study

item ALATORRE-CRUZ, GRACIELA - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item DOWNS, HEATHER - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item HAGOOD, DARCY - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item SORENSON, SETH - University Arkansas For Medical Sciences (UAMS)
item WILLIAMS, D. - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)
item LARSON-PRIOR, LINDA - Arkansas Children'S Nutrition Research Center (ACNC)

Submitted to: International Journal of Psychophysiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/9/2021
Publication Date: 4/16/2021
Citation: Alatorre-Cruz, G.C., Downs, H., Hagood, D., Sorenson, S.T., Williams, D.K., Larson-Prior, L. 2021. Effect of obesity on inhibitory control in preadolescents during stop-signal task. An event-related potentials study. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 165:56-67.

Interpretive Summary: Childhood is a period in which the brain is undergoing critical structural and functional changes that impact the development of cognitive control and memory. The alarming rise in childhood obesity has emerged as one of the most severe public health concerns of the current century, with impacts on both physical and cognitive health. In this study, the goal was to determine whether there are differences in brain electrical activity between obese and normal weight school age children performing a cognitive inhibitory control task. We found that obese and normal weight children performed this task equivalently. However, while all children successfully accomplished the task, the obese children's brain was working harder than their normal weight peers to do so. Previous studies have suggested that changes in brain activity such as those we found in our study are related to an inability to attend to presented stimuli, but our study found responses differences prior to the period in which attentional processes are thought to be primarily active. Instead, our data suggest that obese children show slowed cognitive processing speed relative to their normal weight peers. Our study provides new information on cognitive performance in obese preadolescent children. In keeping with previous literature, children exhibited a positive relationship between increasing body mass index and poorer academic performance based on standard testing. However, we found that they were able to behaviorally compensate for this adverse relationship by exerting greater cognitive effort. Our report that indicates a reduction in cognitive processing speed in this population adds new information on cognitive function in childhood obesity.

Technical Abstract: Preadolescence is a period in which structural and functional changes occur in the frontal lobes that relate to the development of executive control functions, particularly in the areas of attention and cognitive inhibition. Obesity has been associated with dysfunctions in inhibitory control due to structural-volumetric brain decreases. Therefore, obese preadolescents should show less efficient inhibitory control than their same-age non-obese peers. To test this hypothesis, event-related potentials (ERPs) were collected during a stop-signal task and compared between 32 obese preadolescents (mean BMI = 17.24 ; 9.61 years old) and 30 normal weight preadolescents (mean BMI =; 25.4 ; 9.62 years old). No significant differences between groups were observed in behavioral responses. As for ERPs, the obese group had an electrophysiological pattern associated with less efficient conflict monitoring during "go condition" (i.e., longer N200 latency), differences in attentional allocation or inhibitory responses in both "go" and "nogo" experimental conditions (longer latency and greater amplitude in P300a component), and greater effort required to maintain "go" trial responses from previous trials in working memory (greater P300b amplitude). We conclude that in obese preadolescents, greater amplitude of P300a and P300b components might reflect a compensatory mechanism that allows them to maintain response accuracy at levels equal to non-obese participants, evidencing differences between groups in the development of attention and inhibitory control.