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CBBS Reasearch Group
Neurocognitive Development


Project leader:

Dr. Nicole Wetzel



C CBBS WetzelOur research aim is to study the development of auditory cognition during childhood. We investigate the development of attention, perception and memory as well as the underlying neuronal mechanisms. This work focusses on a systematic analysis of the developmental path from early to late childhood as well as relevant factors like motivation, emotion and social context. We look at attention, information processing and learning processes in different environments including kindergarten, schools and a clinical setting.


1) How does attentional control develop during childhood?

In this area of research, we look at the involuntary distraction of attention as well as the underlying neuronal mechanisms. Our results show that these processes continue to develop right into late childhood and beyond. In comparison to adults, children are more sensitive to salient, emotional and meaningful distractors. We have also found that children are less successful in controlling their attention than adults. The results of these research findings can be used for educational purposes (e.g. designing an optimal learning environment) as well as in a clinical context (e.g. attention disorders).


2) How do children notice unpredictable changes in their environment?

Here we investigate how unpredictable changes in the auditory environment are perceived and noticed, even if our attention has been directed elsewhere. The underlying change detection processes are already present in an unborn baby, but these processes continue to develop into the teenage years and beyond. This particular data on development can be used to look at the perceptual processes of children with developmental disorders (e.g. autism or reading- and writing disorders).


3) How do learning processes develop?

This project investigates the connection between cognitive processes during learning and the success of this learning. We use pupillometry to look at early perceptual- and memory processes during active learning and we compare these results with the later learning achievement. The goal is to identify the underlying neuronal mechanisms and their development. This knowledge could contribute to designing learning material more appropriately.


4) Do children with social anxiety process social and emotional stimuli differently to children without social anxiety?

In this project we investigate the perception of social and emotional stimuli as well as the attentional processes related to shy children or to social anxiety in children.


5) How do the attentional processes function in ADHD?

In this joint research project with the University Clinic of Leipzig for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, we analyze the attentional processes of patients suffering from ADHD. We are interested in how patients process novel events.


6) How do cognitive processes of prematurely born babies develop during childhood?

The focus of this project is on the perception and attention of children with a history of premature birth. In collaboration with the University of Helsinki, a study has shown different perceptual processes for children who were premature babies compared to their full-term peers. 


Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg

LIN Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology Magdeburg

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