Real-Life Impact of Executive Function Impairments in Adults Who Were Born Very Preterm


Objectives: Children and adolescents who were born very preterm (≤32 weeks’ gestation) are vulnerable to experiencing cognitive problems, including in executive function. However, it remains to be established whether cognitive deficits are evident in adulthood and whether these exert a significant effect on an individual’s real-lifeachievement. Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, we tested a range of neurocognitive abilities, with a focus on executive function, in a sample of 122 very preterm individuals and 89 term-born controls born between 1979 and 1984. Associations between executive function and a range of achievement measures, indicative of a successful transition to adulthood, were examined. Results: Very preterm adults performed worse compared to controls on measures of intellectual ability and executive function with moderate to large effect sizes. They also demonstrated significantly lower achievement levels in terms of years spent in education, employment status, and on a measure of functioning in work and social domains. Results of regression analysis indicated a stronger positive association between executive function and real-life achievement in the very preterm group compared to controls. Conclusions: Very preterm born adults demonstrate executive function impairments compared to full-term controls, and these are associated with lower achievement in several real-life domains. (JINS, 2017, 23, 381–389)

Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society