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      Executive Function and the Frontal Lobes: A Meta-Analytic Review

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      Neuropsychology Review
      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Currently, there is debate among scholars regarding how to operationalize and measure executive functions. These functions generally are referred to as "supervisory" cognitive processes because they involve higher level organization and execution of complex thoughts and behavior. Although conceptualizations vary regarding what mental processes actually constitute the "executive function" construct, there has been a historical linkage of these "higher-level" processes with the frontal lobes. In fact, many investigators have used the term "frontal functions" synonymously with "executive functions" despite evidence that contradicts this synonymous usage. The current review provides a critical analysis of lesion and neuroimaging studies using three popular executive function measures (Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Phonemic Verbal Fluency, and Stroop Color Word Interference Test) in order to examine the validity of the executive function construct in terms of its relation to activation and damage to the frontal lobes. Empirical lesion data are examined via meta-analysis procedures along with formula derivatives. Results reveal mixed evidence that does not support a one-to-one relationship between executive functions and frontal lobe activity. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of construing the validity of these neuropsychological tests in anatomical, rather than cognitive and behavioral, terms.

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          A power primer.

          One possible reason for the continued neglect of statistical power analysis in research in the behavioral sciences is the inaccessibility of or difficulty with the standard material. A convenient, although not comprehensive, presentation of required sample sizes is provided here. Effect-size indexes and conventional values for these are given for operationally defined small, medium, and large effects. The sample sizes necessary for .80 power to detect effects at these levels are tabled for eight standard statistical tests: (a) the difference between independent means, (b) the significance of a product-moment correlation, (c) the difference between independent rs, (d) the sign test, (e) the difference between independent proportions, (f) chi-square tests for goodness of fit and contingency tables, (g) one-way analysis of variance, and (h) the significance of a multiple or multiple partial correlation.
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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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              Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Neuropsychology Review
                Neuropsychol Rev
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1040-7308
                1573-6660
                March 2006
                June 1 2006
                March 2006
                : 16
                : 1
                : 17-42
                Article
                10.1007/s11065-006-9002-x
                16794878
                a050f9f9-faa5-4936-98bc-f0f5eb31a774
                © 2006

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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