Regulation of cognitive resources during sustained attention and working memory in 10-year-olds and adults


  • We are grateful to Christopher Bingham, Ph.D., for providing statistical help with calculations involving pupillary dilation, to Gordon Legge, Ph.D., and Chris Kallie for providing help with luminance measurements, to Anita Fuglestad, Nicholas Davenport, and Clay Collins for helping with data collection, and to Tonya White, M.D., for providing comments on the manuscript. Funding for the study was provided by a McKnight Land-Grant Professorship from the University of Minnesota to the first author.

Adress reprint requests to: Canan Karatekin, Ph.D., Institute of Child Development, 51 E. River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail:


We examined differences between 10-year-olds and young adults in resource recruitment and regulation during tasks of sustained attention and spatial working memory. We administered participants spatial 0- and 1-back tasks and used pupillary dilation as a measure of resource recruitment. Repeated administration of 0-back led to smaller pupillary dilations and greater response time (RT) variability, revealing a vigilance decrement. Effects of repeated administration of 0-back and differences between 0- and 1-back in d′ and RTs were similar between ages. Results further suggested that the children may not have been as effective as adults in extracting frequency information. Thus, on simple tasks of sustained attention and working memory, children recruit resources in a manner similar to adults. Finally, d′ was correlated with RT variability on both tasks at both ages, highlighting the role of attentional fluctuations on both tasks.