Executive Function 301: Cognitive Processes and Changes Across Adolescence

1 hour

Course Type: Video

Understand the development of executive function and become familiar with the cognitive processes that produce executive function skills. 

We dive into environmental and developmental factors that inhibit the natural development of executive function and describe how executive skills progressively improve throughout life.

Executive functions are a collection of higher-cognitive skills that emerge from the interaction between prefrontal regions of the frontal lobe of the brain. This executive system in the brain handles new and unfamiliar tasks. Unfamiliar tasks require many areas and abilities of the brain to all fire simultaneously.
These tasks can include: planning or decision making, error correction or troubleshooting, situations where responses are not well-rehearsed, unfamiliar sequences of actions, and assessing dangerous or difficult situations. Once the tasks become automatic, the process is moved to other parts of the brain that handle familiar routines and less brain energy is needed to complete the task.
Following birth, the brain develops at an extremely fast rate. As each of these areas is developing, a system of circuits or interconnections are developing that connect each brain area. After the connections have been established these circuits and connections are refined and made more efficient throughout adolescence and adulthood. Our genetic code provides the body with instructions on how to develop the brain and which connections to create.
It is dependent on positive experiences such as good nutrition, social interactions, how we are cared for, and attentiveness of our caregivers.
As professionals working to improve communication and interactions, we also require an understanding of what environmental situations can lead to poor development of executive function skills.
When children do not get what they need from the conditions in their environments, their skill development can be seriously delayed or impaired. Adverse environments resulting from neglect, abuse, and/or violence may expose children to stress, which disrupts brain development. This stress also impairs the development of the neural connections that are necessary for executive function.
The most common factors associated with atypical executive skill development include: early environments with high stress, poverty, inadequate nutrients, toxins, deprived sensory, social, and emotional stimulation, abuse, and even substance abuse.

FINANCIAL: Scott Prath, M.A., CCC-SLP is an employee of Bilinguistics and receives a salary. Bilinguistics receives royalty payments for online courses.
NON-FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: Scott Prath does not have any non-financial relationships to disclose.


, ,