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COgnitive Dynamics in Early Childhood

Project description

Measuring cognitive variability in children

Schools across Europe use tests to assess students’ developed abilities and future academic achievement and future job success. However, these cognitive snapshots are missing an important aspect: short-term variability in cognitive performance. With this in mind, the EU-funded CODEC project will explore the concept of variability in performance. Specifically, it will investigate whether variability is a single trait or has distinct factors. It will also study the association between short-term variability and long-term outcomes. The project will carry out a longitudinal study using gamified versions of cognitive domains to measure variability across a range of tasks at multiple levels of temporal resolution: months, days, occasions and trials. CODEC’s study will be carried out on 600 children over a period of 3 years.


Cognitive ability, measured through standardized tests, provides a highly predictive measure of lifespan outcomes including academic achievement, job success, as well as mental and physical health. However, these cognitive snapshots omit a crucial aspect of cognitive ability: Short term variability in cognitive performance. Individuals with more variable performance are more likely to be mis-stratified into schools or careers with potential lifelong consequences, and more likely to perform at levels that necessitate intervention for periods of time. Moreover, variability reflects a promising early warning marker of adverse outcomes, above and beyond mean performance. However, the challenges involved in measuring variability have left crucial questions unanswered: Is variability a single trait, or does it have distinct factors? What are the neural and behavioural determinants of cognitive variability? What is the association between short term variability and long-term outcomes? In this unique longitudinal design using gamified versions of classic cognitive domains I will measure variability across a range of tasks at multiple levels of temporal resolution: months, days, occasions and trials. 600 children (200 in the neuroimaging arm) will be measured for period of three years. Once per year they will take part in a burst: A week where they will be measured three times a day. I will use using cutting edge methodology to understand the behavioural, neural and environmental mechanisms of variability, as well as the longitudinal consequences of variability on cognitive development and the emergence of mental health symptomatology such as ADHD. By combining the strengths of deep phenotyping with cutting edge quantitative modeling, I will be able to test and develop theories of cognitive development, demonstrate the role of brain structure and function in supporting cognitive dynamics and determine the effect of cognitive variability on developmental outcomes.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 500 000,00
Geert grooteplein 10 zuid
6525 GA Nijmegen

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Oost-Nederland Gelderland Arnhem/Nijmegen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00