Brain activity index of distractibility in normal school-age children.
Children's attention is easily diverted from a current activity to a new event in the environment. This was indexed in school-age children by diminished performance speed and accuracy in a visual discrimination task caused by task-irrelevant novel sounds. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) elicited by these distracting sounds showed a prominent positive deflection that was generated by brain processes associated with involuntary switching of attention to novel sounds. Recordings of the magnetoencephalographic (MEG) counterpart of this brain activity revealed a major bilateral generator source in the superior temporal cortex. However, ERP scalp distributions indicated also overlapping brain activity generated in other brain areas involved in involuntary attention switching. Moreover, differences in ERP amplitudes and in their correlations with the reaction times between younger (7-10 years) and older (11-13 years) children indicated developmental changes in attentional brain functions.