Executive dysfunction

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By Alfredo Ardila PhD and Cheri Surloff PhD PsyD

Executive dysfunction is also known as or subsumes Frontal lobe syndrome, Prefrontal syndrome, Dorsolateral syndrome, Medial frontal lobe syndrome, and Orbitofrontal syndrome. -ed.

The term "executive function" is a relatively new term. It includes the ability to filter interference, engage in goal-directed behaviors, anticipate the consequences of one's actions, and to exhibit the adaptive concept of mental flexibility. The analysis of executive functions represents one of the most important research areas in contemporary neurosciences. It is partially—but not totally—related to frontal lobe activity. Executive disorders have been documented in a diversity of conditions. Executive defects early in the dementia process represent a predictor of subsequent behavior disturbances, functional decline, and mortality. In elders, intellectual tasks and everyday activity programs may have a positive effect on executive function abilities.

Key Points

  • The term “executive functions” includes problem solving, planning, inhibiting responses, strategy development and implementation, cognitive control, and working memory.
  • Frontal processes, although not synonymous with executive functioning, are integral to its function.
  • Three major variants of the executive dysfunction syndrome can be distinguished: orbitofrontal, medial, and dorsolateral.
  • Executive dysfunction has been documented in a diversity of conditions, including dementia, traumatic brain injury, white matter lesions, borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, multiple system atrophy, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, progressive supranuclear palsy, CADASIL, and Korsakoff syndrome.