Is Intra-Individual Cognitive Variability in the Clinic Associated with Symptoms of Executive Dysfunction in Daily Life?



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Background: Executive functions (EF) are frequently impaired in children with a variety of neurodevelopmental and acquired neurological disorders. Laboratory-based tests of EF generally rely on mean level of performance, which does not consider fluctuations in task execution that may be of ecological relevance. In adult samples, direct measures of cognitive intra-individual variability (IIV) across a battery of tests are sensitive to frontal systems dysregulation and independently predict everyday functioning. However, these findings have yet to be extended to children. The current sought to determine the relationship between dispersion-IIV and parent- reported executive dysfunction in daily living tasks in a pediatric population. Method: Data was extracted from a mixed clinical sample of pediatric patients (N = 641). Dispersion-IIV was quantified by a coefficient of variation calculated based on normative scores from 10 indices across a battery of three neuropsychological tests. Day-to-day EF challenges were determined using the parent-report Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, a standardized rating scale. A multiple regression with data-driven covariates was conducted to evaluate the hypothesis that dispersion-IIV is positively and independently associated with increased parent-reported EF challenges in day-to-day life. Results: A series of primary and post hoc analyses revealed no significant relationship between coefficient of variation and parent-reported EF and the associated effect sizes were very small. Discussion: The null findings of this study broadly suggest that dispersion-IIV is not meaningfully associated with daily EF symptoms in a group of clinically referred children as measured by a standardized parent-report measure. Limitations, incidental findings, and implications for future research are discussed.



Executive function, Pediatrics, Neuropsychology