Executive Function in Early Childhood


Despite the fact that a substantial number of school age children struggle with both reading and math acquisition, the brain mechanisms of the overlapping aspects of reading and math skills, thought in part to be linked via executive functions (EF), have not been unpacked. This project will use a longitudinal design, following children from Kindergarten through 1st grade, to understand how the brain networks associated with reading, math, and EF interact to predict academic outcomes and, in those who struggle academically, intervention response.


  • Reading Disability


Eligible Ages
Between 4 Years and 9 Years
Eligible Genders
Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion Criteria

  1. Children in Kindergarten (approximate ages 4-9 years) 2. Native English speakers

Exclusion Criteria

  1. Children not in Kindergarten at time of enrollment; 2. previous diagnosis of Intellectual Disability; 3. known uncorrectable visual impairment; 4. documented hearing impairment greater than or equal to a 25 decibel (dB) loss; 5. medical contraindication to MRI procedures (e.g., metal devices) - excludes from MRI procedures only; 6. known intelligence quotient (IQ) below 70; 7. a pervasive developmental disorder; and 8. any known neurologic pathology, including epilepsy, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and brain tumors. 9. Comorbid severe psychiatric disorders will also be excluded, as will those who are taking psychotropic medications, with the exception of stimulant medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children who meet criteria for ADHD will be eligible as long as they are not taking psychotropic medications, with the exception of stimulant medication for ADHD.

Study Design

Study Type
Intervention Model
Parallel Assignment
Primary Purpose
Single (Investigator)

Arm Groups

ArmDescriptionAssigned Intervention
Active Comparator
Reading Tutoring Intervention
20 hours of one-on-one reading tutoring administered over 6 weeks
  • Behavioral: Reading Tutoring
    20 hours of 1:1 reading tutoring intervention over 6 weeks
No Intervention
Business as Usual
Instruction as usual within schools

Recruiting Locations

Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tennessee 37240

More Details

Vanderbilt University

Study Contact

Julie Delheimer, BS

Detailed Description

This longitudinal study will be conducted with 260 Kindergartners, staggered across multiple cohorts, who are followed through 1st grade. There will be three time points of testing for each cohort: fall of Kindergarten, spring of Kindergarten, and in the fall of 1st grade. After the third testing time point, in the fall of 1st grade, the bottom 1/3 of readers in the sample will be selected to participate in the intervention arm of the study. These students will be randomly placed in one of two arms: business-as-usual, in which children receive no additional instruction; or the reading intervention condition, in which they receive 20 hours of 1:1 reading intervention over 6 weeks. Children in both sub-sample arms are assessed again after tutoring is complete, in the spring of 1st grade. Neuroimaging through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will occur as part of study participation in conjunction with testing at fall of Kindergarten, fall of 1st grade, and spring of 1st grade time points.