Early Childhood Programs Change Test Scores but Do They Change Brain Activity?

Last registered on May 13, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Early Childhood Programs Change Test Scores but Do They Change Brain Activity?
Initial registration date
May 11, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
May 13, 2021, 5:25 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


Primary Investigator

Queen's University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of California, San Diego
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Early childhood programs impact test scores, but do they affect brain activity, and how do such neural changes impact future skills? To study these questions, we use a field experiment that randomized children to preschool or to a control group for one year. Following the intervention, we collect data on children’s neural activity during academic and executive functioning tasks using electroencephalography (EEG).
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Decety, Jean et al. 2021. "Early Childhood Programs Change Test Scores but Do They Change Brain Activity?." AEA RCT Registry. May 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7662-1.0
Experimental Details


We take advantage of the Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center (CHECC), a program that randomized 3- to 4-year old disadvantaged children to a free preschool or to a control group. The description and behavioral evaluation of the CHECC field experiment are in Fryer et al. (2020). For our study, we recruited children who had participated in the CHECC field experiment in 2012-2013 to participate in an EEG experiment, to look at whether preschool changes children's brain activity.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Executive function and academic brain activity
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The EEG experiment was conducted in July-November 2013. We recruited children who had completed the one-year CHECC program in May 2013, including children who were assigned to preschool and children who were assigned to the control group. We collected measures of children's executive function and academic brain activity during an executive function (Animal Go/Nogo, AGNG) and an academic (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, PPVT) task.

Four years after collecting the EEG data, in May 2017, we recruited children from our sample to participate in a follow-up behavioral assessment of their academic and executive function skills.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
No randomization was done in this study. In the CHECC field experiment, children were randomized into the preschool and control groups.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
72 children
Sample size: planned number of observations
72 children
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
36 preschool, 36 control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Chicago
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials