Executive Functions after Age 5: Changes and Correlates.

University of Georgia.
Developmental Review (Impact Factor: 3.23). 09/2009; 29(3):180-200. DOI: 10.1016/j.dr.2009.05.002
Source: PubMed


Research and theorizing on executive function (EF) in childhood has been disproportionately focused on preschool age children. This review paper outlines the importance of examining EF throughout childhood, and even across the lifespan. First, examining EF in older children can address the question of whether EF is a unitary construct. The relations among the EF components, particularly as they are recruited for complex tasks, appear to change over the course of development. Second, much of the development of EF, especially working memory, shifting, and planning, occurs after age 5. Third, important applications of EF research concern the role of school-age children's EF in various aspects of school performance, as well as social functioning and emotional control. Future research needs to examine a more complete developmental span, from early childhood through late adulthood, in order to address developmental issues adequately.

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    • "The age period when they mainly develop and reach their maximum level is late adolescence and young adulthood. In a parallel way and underlying the development of most complex thinking abilities, the development of higher order EFs is likely result of the multiple and repeated realization of diverse complex intellectual tasks in educational contexts (see Best et al., 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we propose a preliminary theory of executive functions that address in a specific way their relationship with working memory (WM) and higher-level cognition. It includes: a) four core on-line WM executive functions that are involved in every novel and complex cognitive task; b) two higher order off-line executive functions, planning and revision, that are required to resolving the most complex intellectual abilities; and c) emotional control that is involved in any complex, novel and difficult task. The main assumption is that efficiency on thinking abilities may be improved by specific instruction or training on the executive functions necessary to solving novel and complex tasks involved in these abilities. Evidence for the impact of our training proposal on WM´s executive functions involved in higher-level cognitive abilities comes from three studies applying an adaptive program designed to improve reading comprehension in primary school students by boosting the core WM´s executive functions involved in it: focusing on relevant information, switching (or shifting) between representations or tasks, connecting incoming information from text with long-term representations, updating of the semantic representation of the text in WM, and inhibition of irrelevant information. The results are consistent with the assumption that cognitive enhancements from the training intervention may have affected not only a specific but also a more domain-general mechanism involved in various executive functions. We discuss some methodological issues in the studies of effects of WM training on reading comprehension. The perspectives and limitations of our approach are finally discussed.
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    • "This suggests that the ability to develop a plan of action when reading a passage is critical in ascertaining the 'big picture' from a complicated set of details. Although planning has been characterized as the pinnacle of EF (Best et al., 2009), it may actually be where successful comprehension begins. AsChevalier et al. (2012)have shown, the relations between young children's performance on various executive skills, such as inhibition and working memory are driven by the ability to hold goals in mind. "
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was two-fold: (a) to examine what component of executive functions (EF) - planning and working memory - predicts reading comprehension in young adults (Study 1), and (b) to examine if less skilled comprehenders experience deficits in the EF components (Study 2). In Study 1, we assessed 178 university students (120 females; mean age=21.82 years) on planning (Planned Connections, Planned Codes, and Planned Patterns), working memory (Listening Span, Digit Span Backward, and Digit Memory), and reading comprehension (Nelson-Denny Reading Test). The results of structural equation modeling indicated that only planning was a significant predictor of reading comprehension. In Study 2, we assessed 30 university students with a specific reading comprehension deficit (19 females; mean age=23.01 years) and 30 controls (18 females; mean age=22.77 years) on planning (Planned Connections and Crack the Code) and working memory (Listening Span and Digit Span Backward). The results showed that less skilled comprehenders performed significantly poorer than controls only in planning. Taken together, the findings of both studies suggest that planning is the preeminent component of EF that is driving its relationship with reading comprehension in young adults.
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    • "In typically - developing children , executive control develops very rapidly during the preschool period , with more gradual improvements evident through late adolescence ( Best et al . , 2009 ; Garon et al . , 2008 ) . These advancements appear to be supported by a progressive honing of the neural circuitry underlying executive control , including the frontal - parietal , dorsal - anterior and cingulo - opercular loops . The overproduction of neural spines in the prefrontal cortex is greater than in other neural regions , wh"
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