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Monday, March 27, 2006

Executive Functions...Just What The Heck Are Those?

Or, "Figuring Emily Out, Part 2". Whatever you want to call it.

Executive Functions, as defined by Lehigh Psychological Services, are a collection of related, yet distinct abilities that provide for intentional, goal-directed, problem-solving action.

For someone who has executive function deficits, things such as planning, organizing, and shifting from one activity to the next, are often difficult.

To give you a better idea of exactly how executive functions are defined, and an idea of what someone who has an executive function deficit may operate, I am going to give a number of examples that are very specific to Emily.

The first area is inhibition. This would be defined as not acting on impulse or appropriately stopping one's own activity at the proper time. Someone who has a deficit in this area difficulty "putting the brakes" on behavior and acts without thinking.

The second is shifting. This refers to the ability to move freely from one situation or activity to another, as the situation demands. Someone with a deficit here may have difficulty transitioning.

Next we have organization. Someone who has a deficit in this area has a scattered and disorganized approach to problem solving and may be overwhelmed by large assignments.

Self monitoring is the ability check in on one's own actions. Someone with a deficit here is unaware of their own behavior and it's impact on others.

Emotional control is the ability to control one's own emotions. Deficits is this area mean that a person is too easily upset and explosive.

Finally, working memory is the ability to hold information in the mind for the purpose of completing a specific and related task. Someone with a deficit in this area is sent to go get something and forgets what he or she is supposed to get.

Most research suggests that these functions are performed by the prefrontal lobes of the brain.

For people who have any damage to or disorder in this part of the brain, deficits in executive functions are pretty likely.

I don't suppose I have to tell y'all where the abnormalities in Emily's MRI were, or where most of her seizure activity originates.

Hence, the medical science I was talking about in my last post.

Next: Explosive Behavior and Emily

1 comment:

Caltechgirl said...

Nice synthesis of a lot of difficult information.

Emily's lucky to have parents who are willing to understand what's going on.

One subtle point, the PFC is an area of synthesis, so even if Emily's misfiring circuits are someplace else in her brain, the PFC is downstream of almost everything. Because the brain works on a system of inhibition, if the stream of information gets bottled up before it gets to the PFC, you see PFC dysfunction.