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Attentional development is altered in toddlers with congenital heart disease

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Bonthrone, Alexandra F  ORCID logo
Kyriakopoulou, Vanessa 
Mason, Luke 
Chew, Andrew 
Falconer, Shona 


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:secjats:titleBackground</jats:title>jats:pCongenital Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common congenital abnormality. Survival rates are over 90%, however infants with CHD remain at high risk of attention and executive function impairments. These abilities are difficult to assess in toddlers because clinical assessments rely on language abilities which are commonly delayed in CHD. Our aim was to characterise visual attention in toddlers with CHD compared to controls and identify associations with parent‐rated effortful control.</jats:p></jats:sec>jats:secjats:titleMethods</jats:title>jats:pThirty toddlers with CHD (19 male, median (IQR) age at assessment 22.2 (22–23.1) months) and 66 controls from the developing human connectome project (36 male, age at assessment 22 (21.5–23.8) months) using eye‐tracking tasks designed to assess multiple components of visual attention. Analyses of co‐variance and regressions were used to identify differences between groups and relationships between gaze behaviours and parent‐rated effortful control.</jats:p></jats:sec>jats:secjats:titleResults</jats:title>jats:pToddlers with CHD were less accurate when switching behaviours (set‐shifting) [median (IQR) 79%, (28–100)] compared to controls [100% (86–100), pFDR = 0.032], with worse accuracy associated with lower parent‐rated effortful control in CHD but not controls (interaction pFDR = 0.028). Reaction times were slower during selective [CHD 1243 ms (986–1786), controls 1065 ms (0851–1397), pFDR<0.001] and exogenous attention tasks [CHD 312 ms (279–358), control 289 (249–331), (pFDR = 0.032) and endogenous attention was less mature (prolonged looks at facial stimuli CHD 670 ms (518–885), control 500 ms (250–625), (pFDR = 0.006). These results were unrelated to differences in cognition or socioeconomic status. In contrast, the allocation of attentional resources was preserved in CHD.</jats:p></jats:sec>jats:secjats:titleConclusions</jats:title>jats:pWe identified a profile of altered attention and early executive functioning development in CHD. Eye‐tracking may provide clinically feasible, early objective measures of attention and executive function development in CHD.</jats:p></jats:sec>


Publication status: Published

Funder: FP7 Ideas: European Research Council; doi:; Grant(s): FP7/20072013


32 Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, 3201 Cardiovascular Medicine and Haematology, Congenital Heart Disease, Behavioral and Social Science, Heart Disease, Clinical Research, Rare Diseases, Congenital Structural Anomalies, Pediatric, Neurosciences, Cardiovascular, Basic Behavioral and Social Science

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JCPP Advances

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Action Medical Research (GN2630)
British Heart Foundation (FS/15/55/31649)
European Research Council (319456)
Medical Research Council (MR/L011530/1, MR/V002465/1)