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Unilateral Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is a very common cause of disability in childhood. It is characterized by unilateral motor impairments that are frequently dominated in the upper limb. In addition to a reduced movement capacity of the affected upper limb, several children with unilateral CP show a reduced awareness of the remaining movement capacity of that limb. This phenomenon of disregarding the preserved capacity of the affected upper limb is regularly referred to as Developmental Disregard (DD). Different theories have been postulated to explain DD, each suggesting slightly different guidelines for therapy. Still, cognitive processes that might additionally contribute to DD in children with unilateral CP have never been directly studied. The current protocol was developed to study cognitive aspects involved in upper limb control in children with unilateral CP with and without DD. This was done by recording event-related potentials (ERPs) extracted from the ongoing EEG during target-response tasks asking for a hand-movement response. ERPs consist of several components, each of them associated with a well-defined cognitive process (e.g., the N1 with early attention processes, the N2 with cognitive control and the P3 with cognitive load and mental effort). Due to its excellent temporal resolution, the ERP technique enables to study several covert cognitive processes preceding overt motor responses and thus allows insight into the cognitive processes that might contribute to the phenomenon of DD. Using this protocol adds a new level of explanation to existing behavioral studies and opens new avenues to the broader implementation of research on cognitive aspects of developmental movement restrictions in children.

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Journal Article

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