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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Educating executive function

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Executive functions are thinking skills that assist with reasoning, planning, problem solving, and managing one's life. The brain areas that underlie these skills are interconnected with and influenced by activity in many different brain areas, some of which are associated with emotion and stress. One consequence of the stress‐specific connections is that executive functions, which help us to organize our thinking, tend to be disrupted when stimulation is too high and we are stressed out, or too low when we are bored and lethargic. Given their central role in reasoning and also in managing stress and emotion, scientists have conducted studies, primarily with adults, to determine whether executive functions can be improved by training. By and large, results have shown that they can be, in part through computer‐based videogame‐like activities. Evidence of wider, more general benefits from such computer‐based training, however, is mixed. Accordingly, scientists have reasoned that training will have wider benefits if it is implemented early, with very young children as the neural circuitry of executive functions is developing, and that it will be most effective if embedded in children's everyday activities. Evidence produced by this research, however, is also mixed. In sum, much remains to be learned about executive function training. Without question, however, continued research on this important topic will yield valuable information about cognitive development. WIREs Cogn Sci 2017, 8:e1403. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1403

This article is categorized under:

  • Psychology > Attention
  • Psychology > Learning

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