Executive Functioning

Executive functioning.

The pre frontal cortex, is one of the lobes that surround the amygdala and is situated at the front of the brain. In here, we have executive functioning, (EF) this enables us the skills to plan and execute a task. For those with damage in this region of the brain, executive functioning is impaired. People are unable to time, plan, predict and execute tasks in sequence. People with dyslexia and ADHD are also affected due to pre frontal cortex impairment.

The EF is impaired in those with Autism, Brain injury, Learning Disability, Mood disorders, Foetal Alcohol syndrome, Concussion, Stroke, Cancer treatments and ADHD. Asperger’s, a similar disorder and Psychopathy also has EF dysfunction. It’s also one of the main deficits for socially inappropriate behaviour and anti social behaviour associated with disinhibition.

We use executive functioning to evaluate stimulus and modulate our response to the environment. its our ability to project into the future and solve problems that may arise.

Executive functions (also known as cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes that include; attention control, inhibitory control, reasoning, problem solving and planning, working memory and cognitive flexibility, which is necessary for the cognitive control of behaviour. Deficits are associated with OCD, dementia, Tourette’s syndrome, depression, schizophrenia autism and addiction

Children with high autistic traits showed thinning (less brain tissue) mainly in the superior temporal and temperoparietal cortex, a region previously found to be smaller in autistic people. The area is associated with the processing of socially relevant information, particularly the ability to understand the minds of others and take different perspectives.Cognitive control and stimulus control, associated with classical conditioning and operant conditioning, represent opposite processes (internal vs external) that compete over the control of an persons behaviour’s.

In children with high levels of antisocial traits, however, thinning is seen in the anterior prefrontal cortex, the area associated with moral reasoning.

EF in psychopathic individuals can be evaluated in two ways, a cold EF individual operates from a top down processing, associated with the pre frontal cortex, this includes response inhibition, working memory, planning and sustained attention. Which correlates with the Autism, ADHD and Asperger’s presentation. The hot EF connects to the amygdala, (emotional mainframe of the brain) includes affective, motivational/incentive rewards processing, this correlates with the neuro-typical child. Thus, the ASC child learns through intellect repetition and the NT child learns through emotional reward/incentives. Or through abusive conditioning!

The neuro-typical person is motivated though emotional attachments and the non neuro-typical is motivated through external gratification.

There are functional differences between the right and left amygdala. In one study, electrical stimulations of the right amygdala induced negative emotions, especially fear and sadness. In contrast, stimulation of the left amygdala was able to induce either pleasant (happiness or unpleasant (fear, anxiety, sadness) emotions. Each side holds a specific function in how we perceive and process emotion. The right and left portions of the amygdala have independent memory systems, but work together to store, encode, and interpret emotion.

The right hemisphere is associated with negative emotion. It plays a role in the expression of fear and in the processing of fear-inducing stimuli. Fear conditioning, which is when a neutral stimulus acquires aversive properties, this occurs within the right hemisphere. When an individual is presented with a conditioned, aversive stimulus, it is processed within the right amygdala, producing an unpleasant or fearful response. This emotional response conditions the individual to avoid fear-inducing stimuli.

The right hemisphere is also linked to declarative memory, which consists of facts and information from previously experienced events and must be consciously recalled. It also plays a significant role in the retention of episodic memory. Episodic memory consists of the autobiographical aspects of memory, allowing recall of your personal, emotional and sensory experience’s of an event.

When the frontal cortex is damaged, the person has differences to learning style. they are either hot EF top down, absorb from the environment or cold EF absorb through emotional connections.

Damage to the frontal lobe and namely to EF, is responsible for behaviour changes, poor moral reasoning, socially inappropriate and inability to apply consequences from past actions to behaviour.


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