Title

Light correlated color temperature and task switching performance in preschool-age children: Preliminary insights

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Summer 8-30-2018

Publication Title

PLoS ONE

ISSN

1932-6203

Volume

13

ISBN

8

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202973

Abstract

Data from a growing number of experimental studies show that exposure to higher correlated color temperature (CCT) ambient light, containing more blue light, can positively impact alertness and cognitive performance in older children and adults. To date, few if any studies have examined whether light exposure influences cognitive task performance in preschool-age children, who are in the midst of rapid developmental changes in attention and executive function skills. In this study, healthy children aged 4.5–5.5 years (n = 20; 11 females) completed measures of sustained attention and task switching twice while being exposed to LED light set to either 3500K (a lower CCT) or 5000K (a higher CCT). A control group (n = 18; 10 females) completed the tasks twice under only the 3500K lighting condition. Although the lighting condition did not impact performance on the sustained attention task, exposure to the higher CCT light lead to greater improvement in preschool-age children’s task switching performance (F(1,36) = 4.41, p = 0.04). Children in the control group showed a 6.5% increase in task switching accuracy between time points, whereas those in the experimental group improved by 15.2%. Our primary finding–that exposure to light at a higher correlated color temperature leads to greater improvement in task switching performance–indicates that the relationship between the spectral power distribution of light and executive function abilities is present early in cognitive development. These data have implications for designing learning environments and suggest that light may be an important contextual factor in the lives of young children in both the home and the classroom.

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