13 January 2022

Rogier Kievit from Radboud university medical center has received a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. With this grant of 1.5 million euros he will be able to shape an ambitious project over the next five years. Kievit will study cognitive dynamics in children. In one and the same person, cognitive abilities can fluctuate sharply from one moment to the next, which sometimes leads to lifelong negative consequences. More attention to the fluctuation in cognitive skills in children may counteract this effect.

Cognitive skills such as reasoning, memory and language are important in a human life. They enable us to plan, solve problems and perform complex tasks. Such cognitive skills can be measured early in life. Those outcomes also provide fairly reliable predictions of how a child will develop when it comes to an education and job. They can even be used to predict the risk of illness and death.

Variable skills
In determining such cognitive abilities, however, an essential aspect is overlooked, argues Rogier Kievit, professor of Developmental Neuroscience at the Radboudumc and Donders Institute. "Cognitive abilities can fluctuate, they are variable and changeable. Well rested, you might be able to remember a ten-digit number, while only six after a long stressful day. Moreover, we know that some people suffer more than others. For several reasons, it is important to detect and understand why some children show much more fluctuation than others."

Lifelong consequences
'Variable' children who just happen to be tested at a bad time score lower than they normally do and may end up in the wrong educational track, with lifelong consequences. One solution is to measure children more frequently, to identify both their average performance and variability. Only on the basis of these two characteristics is adequate support and monitoring of children possible.

Neurological and cognitive problems
But there is more to it. Kievit: "The variability of cognitive skills is probably also an early and strong signal ('marker') for atypical development. For instance, greater fluctuation in cognitive abilities later in life, for example, indicates a greater likelihood of rapid cognitive decline, dementia, and death. The CODEC study will look at that link between early variability and cognitive abilities, as well as the role of brain structure and links to atypical developmental profiles such as ADHD."

It is hoped that the research will also lay the foundation for possible behavioral interventions. "Variability is very characteristic of neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD," says Kievit. "For example, we see that effective medications for ADHD not only reduce the symptoms of the disorder, but also the cognitive variability. That points to an important role of variability in this and possibly other disorders."

Brain scan
In the CODEC study, 600 children are followed for three years. Each year, they receive three daily examinations for one week to quantify the degree of cognitive fluctuation, and examine how differences in behavioral, neural and environmental profiles may help explain this fluctuation. In addition, changes in cognitive development and any emerging mental problems such as ADHD are charted. Brain scans are also scheduled for some of the children, to examine the degree to which the anatomical structure of the brain as well as activity patterns give rise to cognitive fluctuations.

More information

Pieter Lomans


neem contact op

Related news items

What does the shingles vaccine teach us about other vaccines? Investigating the role of trained immunity

27 January 2022

The vaccine for shingles, a condition that causes itching, pain, and blisters, is 90% effective, even in elderly. This is remarkable, since most vaccines offer less protection in elderly. Radboudumc is investigating why this vaccine works so well and how it might help us to develop better vaccines.

read more

RIMLS PhD retreat 2022 Register now

25 January 2022

This year, the 2-day RIMLS PhD retreat will be held on 14 & 15 July 2022 in the Koningshof, Veldhoven. We are aiming for a live event again!

read more

Most COVID-19 ICU survivors experience symptoms one year after ICU admission Publication in JAMA

25 January 2022

75% of the COVID-19 survivors who were treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) experience physical, mental and/or cognitive problems one-year post ICU. This shows the large-scale MONITOR-IC study led by Radboudumc.

read more