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Targeting cognitive control to reduce anxiety in very young children: A proof of concept study.

OBJECTIVE: Underdeveloped cognitive control (CC)-the capacity to flexibly adjust to changing environments-may predispose some children to early onset anxiety disorders and represents a promising intervention target. The current study established and pilot-tested "Camp Kidpower"-a novel group-based, interactive CC training intervention-and assessed its impacts on behavioral and neurophysiological indices of CC among preschool children with elevated anxiety symptoms.

METHODS: Forty-four anxious children (4-6 years) were enrolled in Camp Kidpower, delivered in four sessions over 10 days. Before and after camp, children's capacity for CC was measured using well-validated, non-trained behavioral tasks and error-related negativity (ERN). Child anxiety symptoms were measured by parent report on the Spence Preschool Anxiety Scale.

RESULTS: Thirty-two children completed the study, as defined by completion of pre- and follow-up assessments and at least three camp sessions. From baseline to after camp, performance on behavioral tests of CC improved, ERN amplitude increased, and anxiety symptoms decreased.

CONCLUSION: Results provide initial evidence that play-based cognitive training targeted to behavioral and brain markers of CC reduces anxiety in preschoolers.

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