What are Executive Functions?
Executive functions are our brain’s abilities to regulate, organize, and direct our thoughts and behaviours. They allow us to break down a goal into a step-by-step plan, manage time, control focus, and regulate behaviour in order to get things done. Some executive functions include working memory, cognitive flexibility, multi-tasking, problem solving, planning, and self control. More specifically, they can include shifting attention between tasks, continuously updating information, and inhibiting incorrect responses. Trouble with executive functions can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions.
What is Executive Function Training?
Given the central role of executive functioning in being able to reason and manage stress and emotion, researchers have conducted numerous studies, primarily with adults, to determine whether these executive functions can be improved through training. These studies have shown that executive functions can be improved through computer-based, video-game-like activities. Using these activities, people can improve their cognitive abilities which allowed them to better respond to their surroundings.
Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) has been shown to be very effective in improving executive functioning. CRT can help patients learn to self-monitor their thoughts and feelings, and the social skills training inherent in CRT can help patients formulate appropriate responses in social situations.