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Poster F44

Visual evoked potential (VEP) mediates associations between early life stress and cognitive development

Poster Session F - Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Lara Pierce1 (, Charles Nelson2,3; 1York University, 2Boston Children's Hospital, 3Harvard Medical School

Exposure to early life stress has been associated with increased developmental risk, in part from early alterations to developing neural circuitry. Visual Evoked Potential (VEP) amplitude and latency, thought to index integrity of cortical pathways and global neural maturation, might predict later risk (Calloway et al., 1973; Jensen et al., 2019; Torres-Espinola et al., 2018). However, associations between stress and infant VEP development are not well understood. Pattern-reversal VEPs were recorded from scalp electrodes in 6-, 9-, and 12-month-old infants experiencing low- to mid-SES (n=68). Developmental assessments (Mullen Scales of Early Learning; MSEL) were administered at 24-months. Caregiver stress and demographic variables were collected at 2-months. Hierarchical linear regression tested whether 2-month demographic or stress variables predicted VEP (P1) amplitude or latency at any timepoint. At 6- and 9-months, models did not predict either P1 amplitude or latency. By 12 months, caregiver reports of perceived stress (PSS) significantly and positively predicted P1 amplitude (B = .316, p = .007), adjusting for objective stress and demographic variables. Because P1 amplitude decreases across the first year, higher amplitude may index a less mature pattern. 12-month P1 amplitude also negatively predicted MSEL scores at 24-months, adjusting for PSS (B = -1.893, p = .014), and 12-month P1 amplitude mediated associations between caregiver stress at 2-months and MSEL scores at 24-months (bias corrected 95% = -2.02 to -.31). Results suggest one pathway by which exposure to early life stress might contribute to variation in downstream cognitive abilities in late infancy and early childhood.

Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Development &aging


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April 13–16  |  2024