Cognitive and motor skills in children born very pre-term

Children born extremely prematurely, before 32 weeks of pregnancy, continue to show cognitive limitations into their teenage years.

Researchers from the University of Basel compared a group of 54 very preterm children aged 9 to 13 years with a control group of children of the same age born at term. When given a signal, the children had to push a button as quickly as possible. When given a different signal, they were not allowed to push the button – i.e., they had to suppress the impulse to move. The children who had been born prematurely had weaker impulse control compared with children born at term. This is linked to poorer performance at school and a higher susceptibility to addiction.

In further experiments, the researchers tested gross and fine motor skills and reported that the greater the deficit in motor skills, the more limited the impulse control in children born very preterm. The researchers speculate that targeted motor skills training could reduce cognitive limitations in younger children in particular, as the development of motor and cognitive skills are closely linked.

Read more: Ludyga, S. et al. (2021)Very preterm birth and cognitive control: The mediating roles of motor skills and physical fitness. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (2021). DOI:

Relevant article in the IJBPE:

Boyle, E.M. (2017) Babies born close to term: Considerations, challenges and outcomes. IJBPE, Volume 4, Issue 4:23-28.


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