Neuropsychological Stimulation Program for Children from Low Socioeconomic Backgrounds: Study Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial (Open Access)

  • Authors:
    Pablo Rodríguez-Prieto, Ian Craig Simpson, Diego Gomez-Baya, Claudia García de la Cadena, Desirée Ruiz-Aranda, Joaquín A. Ibáñez-Alfonso
    Year: 2024

This research has been supported by the Andalusian Agency for International Development Cooperation, in the framework of the project “Improving the academic performance and quality of life of vulnerable children in Guatemala: Comprehensive programme of cognitive and emotional stimulation, development of school gardens and strengthening distance learning in the face of the COVID-19 challenge“.


Background: Guatemala remains one of the poorest countries in Central America and suffers from high rates of social inequality and violence. In addition to the negative impact that two years without attending school has had on Guatemalan children due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, this unfavourable socioeconomic context poses a risk to children’s emotional and cognitive development. This work presents a protocol for implementing a cognitive and emotional stimulation program aimed at increasing the academic performance of these children and consequently improving their quality of life.

Methods: The protocol proposes the implementation of a randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of a 24-session-long stimulation program. It targets the cognitive functions of attention, language, executive functions, and social cognition, using the digital neurorehabilitation platform NeuronUP. The participants (n = 480) will be randomly assigned to an Experimental or Control group. Pre- and post-intervention assessments will be carried out, together with a follow-up in the next academic year, in which both groups will change roles. Results will be compared for the first and second years, looking for differences in academic and cognitive performance between groups.

Discussion: Mid- and long-term outcomes are still unknown, but effective interventions based on this protocol are expected to facilitate the following benefits for participants: (1) improved cognitive and emotional development; (2) improved academic performance; (3) improved well-being. We expect to create a validated neuropsychological stimulation program that could be applied in similar socioeconomically disadvantaged contexts around the world to help these children improve their life chances.

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