Home Observation Measurement of the Environment

In this study, we sought to understand how different aspects of children’s home environment influence executive function, attention, and memory.  This study consisted of home visits of over 100 children aged 60-75 months. Experimenters conducted the Home Observation Measurement of the Environment (HOME) to assess aspects of the environment including cognitive stimulation, parental nurturance, and physical environment. Children participated in tests of executive function including backwards digit span to assess working memory, Simon Says to assess inhibitory control, and Dimensional Card Sorting Task to assess cognitive flexibility. Results revealed that the socioeconomic status (SES) has an indirect effect on all measures of executive function through cognitive stimulation, but not other aspects of the home environment. Additionally, children performed a task to assess their ability to use memory to guide attention. Results revealed that the quality of the physical environment (e.g. perceptual richness) was the strongest predictor of performance on this task. These results highlight the importance of careful quantification of the early environment to elucidate possible mechanistic explanations of individual differences in performance on different types of cognitive tasks. We are currently conducting follow-up visits with this sample that includes MRI scans and tests of academic achievement. This work has the potential to contribute to our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying SES-related disparities in academic achievement.