Head and Coordination


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01/2018 – 12/2020

Project SAND

Dissociating the effects of age and schooling on neurocognitive development

The SAND project examines schooling-specific neurocognitive changes over time when children transition from preschool to primary school, in order to uncover their implications for academic outcome.

Entering formal schooling is a major transition in almost every child's life. Children often experience sharp differences when they transition from preschool to primary school, especially in relation to the structure of the setting, curriculum, and teachers’ expectations.

Our previous work (Brod, Bunge, & Shing, 2017) showed that, due to increased demands on sustained attention, one year of being in the first-grade leads to quite specific changes in children, namely improved cognitive control (i.e. the ability to orchestrate thought and action in accordance with internal goals), as well as an increase in the activation of right posterior parietal cortex, a brain region important for sustained attention.

As the next step, the overarching goals of the SAND project are:

  1. to examine schooling-specific neurocognitive changes over time in order to uncover their implications for academic outcome;
  2. to identify predictors of schooling-specific neurocognitive changes;
  3. to determine to what extent being older when starting first grade would lead to larger schooling-specific neurocognitive changes.

The project combines an experimental approach with longitudinal assessments of brain functions (using functional near-infrared spectroscopy), cognitive abilities, and academic achievements in two groups of children who are similar in age but differ in year of school entrance. Results of the SAND project may have implications for policies of school entry and early classroom practices.


Selected Publications

Brod, G., Bunge, S. A., & Shing, Y. L. (2017). Does one year of schooling improve children's cognitive control and alter associated brain activation? Psychological Science, 28, 967–978, doi:10.1177/0956797617699838.