Event Related Potential Study of Visual Selective Attention and Working Memory in Children



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



One current model of visual selective attention proposes two mechanisms that work together to achieve processing of important information: facilitation – which controls the processing of relevant target stimuli – and suppression – which works to filter out irrelevant distracting stimuli. While facilitation is seen in all ages, previous research indicates suppression develops later in childhood (Plebanek & Sloutsky 2017; 2019; Wong-Kee-You et al., 2019). One theory regarding the development of selective attention is that it is linked to the development of working memory – given the functional and neural overlap between the two processes (Downing, 2000; LaBar et al., 2019). This study investigated the developmental timeline of suppression using electrophysiological methods to create a quantitative physiological measure of facilitation and suppression during visual selective attention using the P1/N1 event related potential (ERP) components for 24 adults and 12 children (8-12 years-old). Our results reveal a suppression effect of the N1 component for adults, but not for children; suggesting that suppression may not develop before the age of 12. Additionally, we discovered children reach adult levels for visual working memory capacity between the ages of 10-12 years-old; and that for children only, visual working memory capacity has a significant interaction with attention ability. This indicates that working memory capacity develops earlier and may influence later development of selective attention skills – including suppression. Understanding the development of attention and working memory will provide useful information in creating effective classroom management strategies and enhancing the focus of task-related information to foster childhood learning.



Attention, Working Memory, EEG, ERP, P1/N1, Children, Developmental Psychology