What ARE Executive Functions?

 by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part 2 in a Series (click HERE for Part 1))

What the heck ARE Executive Functions ANYWAY?

Well, that all depends on who you ask!

While there is certainly a consensus that executive systems are involved in handling situations outside the domains of most of the processes of the body (whether ‘automatic’ or something under our conscious control) – and while there is very little disagreement that executive processes are not controlled by the same processes that produce our emotional reactions –

the exact nature of executive control
is difficult to pin down and articulate.

Until science discovers more about the neuro-chemical, bio-electric  processes underlying brain function, all anybody can really do is attempt to describe them based on how and where they work – or don’t!

Try to describe the elements that combine to allow an orchestra to create beautiful music . . .

 . . . see the problem?

You can’t really say much about it until you know what kind of music the orchestra is trying to make beautiful.

AND . . .

as challenging as it would be to come up with a list of ALL of the kinds of music any orchestra might play . . . it’s not a whole lot easier to agree even upon a set of categories into which all the factors could be be sorted.

So it is with the executive functions . . . which will never stop science from TRYING to categorize! 

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