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Executive Function

Posted Feb 14 2011 5:00am
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has published a paper entitled Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function. This paper provides an overview on executive function and how it develops in children.

Executive functions include working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive or mental flexibility. These three main abilities work together to make up executive functions.

Some of the key research indicates the following
  • that the building blocks of executive function start during early childhood but continue to develop into the adolescent years
  • scientists are making great gains in determining what areas of the brain executive functions are dependent upon to develop i.e. mostly the prefrontal cortex but also the anterior cingulate, parietal cortex and the hippocampus
  • executive function builds a strong foundation for school readiness, academic success, social, emotional and moral development.
  • a child's environment plays a large role in developing executive function
The evaluation research indicates that
  • specialized training programs can help executive function skills to develop
  • focused preschool interventions can help to strengthen a child's executive function skills
  • when improvements in executive function are seen it carries over to social and academic successes
This is an extensive article on executive functions which also includes a helpful table of a developmental time line for working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility develop.

You can download the entire paper at the Center on the Developing Child - Harvard University.

Reference: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2011). Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function: Working Paper No. 11. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu
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