Executive functions are higher-order skills involved in the energization, regulation, sound execution and on-line readjustment of goal-directed behaviors (Verdejo-García & Bechara, 2010). In other words, the executive functions are the “tools” that guide our actions, thoughts, and emotions in order to achieve objectives or goals.
Executive function skills
Executive functions comprise diverse aspects such as working memory, planning, reasoning, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, decision making, time estimation, multitasking or dual-task performance.
For example, working memory allows the storage, manipulation, and transformation of information in the mind. We use working memory when we recall questions asked in a conversation in order to answer them later on.
Another executive function is planning, that is, the ability to develop the most appropriate action plans based on the anticipation of consequences in the pursuit of a specific goal. For example, when setting the table, planning is the executive function that allows us to keep in mind: how many people will be eating; where to get the tablecloth; how to lay it out; how many plates and cutlery to use…
How to improve executive functions?
Can training improve executive functioning problems such as trouble with reasoning, working memory, planning, or inhibition?
Yes, thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to experience, chemical substances, hormones, and injury. This ability of the brain to reorganize itself, and form and strengthen neural connections, is vital for improving executive functioning.
Only appropriate training can improve executive function deficits. Proper training is always led by a cognitive stimulation professional. This professional will develop a cognitive stimulation program adjusted to individual needs, characteristics, and circumstances, and will decide which type of activities to perform, difficulty level, and duration of those activities.
Accordingly, next Tuesday we will share some NeuronUP activities used by neurorehabilitation professionals to improve executive functioning.