Executive function is a collection of processes considered to be at the highest level of cognition. They are responsible for goal setting, staying focused, initiation and follow through of a plan, self-awareness, and managing cognitive and emotional functions during daily tasks. These functions are controlled by the frontal lobes of the brain. Their dense connections with other cortical and subcortical regions of the brain are responsible for arousal, motivation, perceptual processes, and motor control. When this system is not functioning well even the simplest tasks can be extremely challenging.
If you suspect that your executive functions may not be optimal, it is essential to consult with a qualified professional for appropriate guidance. Erin Badour, CCC, SLP is the driving force of NeuroZone in Santa Monica, Playa del Rey, and Redondo Beach. We are a trusted resource for addressing executive function concerns using the remarkable power of neurofeedback. To gain more insight into how neurofeedback can improve your executive function or to schedule an appointment with us, please call (310) 821-3640 or fill out an inquiry form to get in touch with us.
- 1 About the Brain
- 2 Who Should Do Executive Functioning Training?
- 3 Common Signs/Symptoms of Executive Dysfunction
- 4 Programs for Executive Dysfunction
- 5 How Our Treatment for Executive Dysfunction is Different
- 6 Benefits of Brain Training
- 7 Cost of Neurofeedback Training in Santa Monica
- 8 References
About the Brain
The executive functions of the brain are a crucial set of cognitive abilities that govern the following:
- Decision-Making Skills
- Problem-Solving Abilities
- Attention Span
- Working Memory
- Mental Flexibility
- Impulse Control
- Time Management Skills
These functions work together to help us navigate through our daily lives, make rational choices, and achieve our goals.
When our executive functions are not working well, it can have a significant impact on various aspects of our lives. Decision-making becomes challenging, as we may struggle to weigh different options and anticipate the consequences of our choices. Problem-solving abilities may be compromised, leading to difficulties in finding effective solutions to challenges or obstacles.
Our attention span may become shorter and more easily distracted, making it harder to focus on tasks or sustain concentration. Working memory, which is responsible for holding and manipulating information in our mind, may be impaired, resulting in forgetfulness or difficulty in retaining new information.
Mental flexibility, the ability to adapt and switch between different tasks or perspectives, may also be affected. This can make it harder to adjust to changes or think creatively. Impulse control may become weakened, leading to impulsive actions or behaviors without considering the potential consequences.
Additionally, difficulties with time management and organization skills may arise. People with impaired executive functions may struggle to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, or establish effective routines. This can result in feelings of overwhelm or inefficiency.
Frontal Lobe Science
The frontal lobes mediate executive functions. The executive system, with its dense connections throughout the brain, is susceptible to malfunction when any of the systems sending information to the frontal lobes is malfunctioning. This is why individuals with any type of damage or delay to virtually any region of the brain may show some deficits in executive functioning.
The flow of information through the executive system is highly dependent upon other cognitive processes such as attention and memory.
Who Should Do Executive Functioning Training?
A number of disorders and conditions are associated with challenges with executive functions. Most often if there are cognitive challenges, there is a good chance there will be some challenges in the area of executive functioning. Some of the most prevalent disorders are:
- Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD/ADHD)
- Learning Disabilities
- Anxiety-Based Disorders
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- “Long” COVID Sufferers
Although there are certain disorders that automatically require an evaluation of executive functions, there are several symptoms that, if present, can indicate the possibility of executive dysfunction.
Common Signs/Symptoms of Executive Dysfunction
Individuals who demonstrate difficulties in the area of executive functioning may demonstrate some of the following problems:
- Difficulties with Organization Skills
- Difficulties with Inhibition
- Difficulties Shifting Attention
- Difficulties with Emotional Control
- Poor Self-Monitoring Abilities
- Poor Working Memory Skills
- Difficulties with Task Initiation and Completion
- Difficulties Planning Things
Programs for Executive Dysfunction
What is Cogmed?
Working memory is an executive function that we use constantly. It involves holding information in the mind for a short time and then manipulating that information in order to perform a given task. Research has demonstrated that poor working memory is the main underlying cause of learning challenges, (1) poor job and academic performance, and difficulties with attention.
Cogmed is a computer-based training program that provides a variety of visual and auditory memory exercises to challenge the trainee’s working memory capacity. It is not a program that teaches skills, it is a program that helps reorganize the brain to provide a new platform for learning across all skill sets.
The difficulty of each task is adjusted in real time based on the trainee’s performance. This allows for the trainee to be challenged enough but not to the point where they become frustrated and lose interest. The research has shown that with improved working memory comes improved overall attention, resistance to distractions, self-management skills, and learning ability.
Although there are several programs that address the executive functioning system, the most impactful treatment for executive dysfunction is neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that measures brain waves and provides feedback to the subject in real time. (2) Research has shown that through the thalamic-cortical-thalamic neural pathways, a bidirectional connection, the brain can obtain data about its own activity. This opens the door for brain training through direct stimulation of the various cortical regions using neurofeedback.
Through this circuit, training at the cortical level will impact functioning at the subcortical (thalamic) level which is a core structure in the executive system. If any of the brain areas involved in executive function are identified as malfunctioning through the Brain Map, either cortical or subcortical, neurofeedback can provide direct training through specific lead placement on those areas for training.
“Stimulation of the cortex may bring about improved functioning of subcortical structures.”
How Our Treatment for Executive Dysfunction is Different
As part of our intervention for executive dysfunction, the client will participate in an integrated approach where neurofeedback and other cognitive training programs are used to promote improvement in cognitive areas that support executive functioning. These areas include memory, attention, processing speed, and often language. Once the executive systems begin to improve, the client will often need some assistance.
This type of instruction frequently involves a “how to” approach to various tasks that require executive processes. Although the individual’s cognitive system has changed and is now able to handle problem-solving and execution of tasks, the client often requires some level of instruction because of the novelty of using these skills.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback training is brainwave biofeedback where the brain’s electrical activity is related to a computer through electrodes that are placed at various locations on the scalp and earlobes.
Benefits of Brain Training
- Increased productivity and efficiency: By targeting the underlying causes of decreased executive function, we can help you improve your ability to complete tasks and achieve your goals in a timely manner.
- Enhanced organizational skills and time management: Our strategies and techniques will assist you in effectively organizing tasks, managing your time, and staying on track with your responsibilities.
- Improved decision-making abilities: We will work with you to enhance your decision-making skills, enabling you to make informed choices that align with your goals and values.
- Strengthened problem-solving and critical thinking: Through targeted interventions, we can help you develop effective problem-solving strategies and enhance your critical thinking abilities.
- Heightened attention span and focus: Our methods aim to improve your attention span and concentration, allowing you to stay focused on tasks for longer periods without becoming easily distracted.
- Enhanced prioritization and goal-setting: We will assist you in setting clear priorities and developing realistic goals, enabling you to allocate your time and energy efficiently.
- Improved multitasking and task management: Our approach will equip you with the skills to effectively juggle multiple responsibilities, ensuring that you can handle various tasks simultaneously without feeling overwhelmed.
- Reduced forgetfulness and memory problems: Through tailored interventions, we can help you improve your memory and reduce instances of forgetfulness, allowing you to recall important information more easily.
- Enhanced task initiation and completion: Our strategies will aid in overcoming the challenges associated with starting and finishing tasks, providing you with the motivation and focus necessary for successful task completion.
- Improved emotional regulation and stress management: We understand the impact that impaired executive functions can have on your emotions and stress levels. Our techniques will assist you in regulating your emotions and effectively managing stress, leading to a greater sense of well-being.
Cost of Neurofeedback Training in Santa Monica
At NeuroZone, we understand the impact that compromised executive function can have on your daily life. Erin is committed to providing comprehensive assessments, personalized treatment plans, and supportive care to help you regain optimal functioning. Contact us today at (310) 821-3640 to schedule a consultation and improve your executive functions with brain training.
Read Erin’s blog to find out more about neurofeedback at NeuroZone.
- Wiguna T, WR NS, Kaligis F, Belfer ML. Learning Difficulties and Working Memory Deficits among Primary School Students in Jakarta, Indonesia. Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience. 2012;10(2):105-109. doi:https://doi.org/10.9758/cpn.2012.10.2.105
- Marzbani H, Marateb H, Mansourian M. Methodological Note: Neurofeedback: A Comprehensive Review on System Design, Methodology and Clinical Applications. Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Journal. 2016;7(2). doi:https://doi.org/10.15412/j.bcn.03070208