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      Advancing understanding of executive function impairments and psychopathology: bridging the gap between clinical and cognitive approaches

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          Executive function (EF) is essential for successfully navigating nearly all of our daily activities. Of critical importance for clinical psychological science, EF impairments are associated with most forms of psychopathology. However, despite the proliferation of research on EF in clinical populations, with notable exceptions clinical and cognitive approaches to EF have remained largely independent, leading to failures to apply theoretical and methodological advances in one field to the other field and hindering progress. First, we review the current state of knowledge of EF impairments associated with psychopathology and limitations to the previous research in light of recent advances in understanding and measuring EF. Next, we offer concrete suggestions for improving EF assessment. Last, we suggest future directions, including integrating modern models of EF with state of the art, hierarchical models of dimensional psychopathology as well as translational implications of EF-informed research on clinical science.

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          Most cited references 180

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          The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex "Frontal Lobe" tasks: a latent variable analysis.

          This individual differences study examined the separability of three often postulated executive functions-mental set shifting ("Shifting"), information updating and monitoring ("Updating"), and inhibition of prepotent responses ("Inhibition")-and their roles in complex "frontal lobe" or "executive" tasks. One hundred thirty-seven college students performed a set of relatively simple experimental tasks that are considered to predominantly tap each target executive function as well as a set of frequently used executive tasks: the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), Tower of Hanoi (TOH), random number generation (RNG), operation span, and dual tasking. Confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the three target executive functions are moderately correlated with one another, but are clearly separable. Moreover, structural equation modeling suggested that the three functions contribute differentially to performance on complex executive tasks. Specifically, WCST performance was related most strongly to Shifting, TOH to Inhibition, RNG to Inhibition and Updating, and operation span to Updating. Dual task performance was not related to any of the three target functions. These results suggest that it is important to recognize both the unity and diversity of executive functions and that latent variable analysis is a useful approach to studying the organization and roles of executive functions. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.
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            Executive functions.

             Adele Diamond (2013)
            Executive functions (EFs) make possible mentally playing with ideas; taking the time to think before acting; meeting novel, unanticipated challenges; resisting temptations; and staying focused. Core EFs are inhibition [response inhibition (self-control--resisting temptations and resisting acting impulsively) and interference control (selective attention and cognitive inhibition)], working memory, and cognitive flexibility (including creatively thinking "outside the box," seeing anything from different perspectives, and quickly and flexibly adapting to changed circumstances). The developmental progression and representative measures of each are discussed. Controversies are addressed (e.g., the relation between EFs and fluid intelligence, self-regulation, executive attention, and effortful control, and the relation between working memory and inhibition and attention). The importance of social, emotional, and physical health for cognitive health is discussed because stress, lack of sleep, loneliness, or lack of exercise each impair EFs. That EFs are trainable and can be improved with practice is addressed, including diverse methods tried thus far.
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              The attention system of the human brain.


                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                26 March 2015
                : 6
                1Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver CO, USA
                2Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder CO, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Damien Brevers, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

                Reviewed by: Alexandre Heeren, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium; Qinghua He, Southwest University, China

                *Correspondence: Hannah R. Snyder, Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Frontier Hall, 2155 S. Race Street, Denver, CO 80208, USA hsnyders@

                This article was submitted to Psychopathology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2015 Snyder, Miyake and Hankin.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 2, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 180, Pages: 24, Words: 0


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