TRI Publications

The Little Brain That Could: Understanding Executive Function in Early Childhood

Author(s) Patricia M. Blasco, Sage Saxton, & Mary Gerrie
Date August 31, 2014
Published in Young Exceptional Children, 17(3)
Citation Blasco, P. M., Saxton, S., & Gerrie, M. (2014). The Little Brain That Could: Understanding Executive Function in Early Childhood. Young Exceptional Children, 17(3), 3-18. doi:10.1177/1096250613493296


Executive function (EF) refers to a group of neurocognitive processes that direct, connect, and organize information in the brain, which is then manifested in planned behavior (Riggs, Jahromi, Razza, Dillworth- Bart, & Müller, 2006). The development of EF skills are associated with complicated interrelated neural network systems, including but not specific to the prefrontal cerebral cortex part of the brain (Collette et al., 2005; Diamond, 2006). Simply put, brain regions associated with EF enables a person’s self-regulatory processes (Riggs et al. 2006). Researchers have argued whether EF is a unitary construct (Baddeley, 1990) or a set of cognitive processes interacting together in an interactive framework (Miyake et al., 2000). However, most researchers agree that cognitive processes including working memory, initiating and inhibiting responses, shifting among information and maintaining attention during goal-oriented task completion, planning and organizing, and modulating emotional responses are some of the components of EF exhibited by preschoolers (Blair, Zelazo, & Greenberg, 2005; Garon, Bryson, & Smith, 2008).

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