The global epidemic of childhood obesity has become a major public health concern. Yet, evidence regarding the association between childhood obesity and cognitive health has remained scarce. This study examined the relationship between obesity and cognitive control using neuroelectric and behavioral measures of action monitoring in preadolescent children. Healthy weight and obese children performed compatible and incompatible stimulus-response conditions of a modified flanker task, while task performance and the error-related negativity (ERN) were assessed. Analyses revealed that obese children exhibited a longer reaction time (RT) relative to healthy weight children for the incompatible condition, whereas no such difference was observed for the compatible condition. Further, obese children had smaller ERN amplitude relative to healthy weight children with lower post-error response accuracy. In addition, healthy weight children maintained post-error response accuracy between the compatible and incompatible conditions with decreased ERN amplitude in the incompatible condition, whereas obese children exhibited lower post-error response accuracy for the incompatible relative to the compatible condition with no change in ERN amplitude between the compatibility conditions. These results suggest that childhood obesity is associated with a decreased ability to modulate the cognitive control network, involving the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, which supports action monitoring.
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