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Attention and Executive Functions

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Peter Baggetta

on 12 September 2014

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Transcript of Attention and Executive Functions

Executive Functions
able to control attention, behavior, thoughts, emotions
resisting temptations and acting impulsively
discipline to stay on task despite temptations
delay gratification
resist unwanted thoughts or memories,

Difficult for young children

Predicts outcomes throughout life
Inhibitory Control:
being able to change/consider other perspectives
being able to change how think about something
being flexible to adjust to changed demands or priorities
large overlap with creativity and task switching
Task switching NOT multi-tasking
Task switching improves during childhood
Cognitive Flexibility
Executive Functions
set of general-purpose control mechanisms/processes that regulate the dynamics of human cognition and action
related but separable abilities
linked to the PFC and frontal lobes
core component of self-control/self-regulation
different definitions/models
Higher-order EFs: (fluid intelligence)

3 Core EFs:
cognitive flexibility
working memory
What are EFs?
Focusing of perception and cognition on something in particular

Goal of perceptual development during childhood

Attention closely linked to executive functions

Focusing system
Deliberately seek out something in the environment while ignoring irrelevant cues
Infants are not good at selective attention
Significant increase between 3½ and 4 years
Attention Span
2 to 3 yrs old - average of 18 minutes and easily distracted
5 to 6 yrs old - often persist for 1 hour or more
Improvements due to myelination
After 8-9 yrs old little increase in length but becomes more accurate
Suspected Causes:
Restless and fidgety
Very active
Difficult temperaments
Irregular feeding and sleeping patterns
Between 5-9% of school-age children
2 x boys to girls (under diagnosed?)
By grade-school years fidgety, restless, and inattentive to schoolwork
Estimated 20% outgrow overactive behavior
Adolescents - perform poorly in school or drop out, and behave impulsively
Early adulthood - lapses of concentration, procrastinate, and make impulsive decisions
More severe the more likely it is that later life outcomes will be poor
Environmental factors:

may influence whether a genetic predisposition develops into ADHD

whether the individual adapts well or poorly
Genetic predisposition:

60 to 90% of the variation in ADHD
identical twins
first-degree relatives (including parents) 4-5 x risk
Not one ADHD gene
Deficiencies in executive functions:

Difficulty in inhibiting and regulation behavior

Low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine
Stimulant drugs (i.e., Ritalin) - increases levels of dopamine and facilitate attention

Possible overprescription of stimulants and side effects??

Medication alone more effective than behavioral treatment alone

Combination of medication and behavioral treatment
superior to medication alone
1. Explain what executive functions are and do.

2. Understand the two key aspects of attention.

3. Discuss the development of, suspected causes and treatment of ADHD.
Does not seem to listen
Easily distracted; forgetful; unorganized
Trouble following instructions/completing tasks
Acts before thinking
Cannot inhibit urges

Parent-Child relations

Social Adjustment

Academic Performance
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