Dr. Alysa Doyle, a psychologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, has recently outlined the components or parts of executive function. Executive function is thought process necessary for planning to reach goals and adapting to changes in your environment. Dr. Doyle has listed the components as follows:
1. The ability to inhibit and defer a response.
2. Shifting/cognitive flexibility
3. Abstract reasoning
4. Organization and planning
5. Working memory
6. Interference control

The ability to inhibit, means to halt or stop any action or reaction. To defer means to delay an activity until it is properly thought out and acceptable.

Shifting/cognitive flexibility involves the ability of an individual to go from one activity to another without becoming distracted.

Abstract reasoning is the ability to get ideas from information already learned. An example would be the understanding of a metaphor, a joke or a poem.

Organization and planning is somewhat self-explanatory. It is the ability to put things in order so that desired results are usually obtained.

Working memory has been defined in the ABLE Glossary and could be separate from executive function. It is the ability to recall or remember facts and use them in day-to-day mental exercises without effort.

Interference control is the ability to remain undisturbed when newly learned material or behavior does not agree with previously learned material or behavior. It is essential for adapting or developing coping skills.

Dr. Doyle stated that in psychological testing, there are two items called freedom from distraction and block design. When present, these items may well suggest a problem with executive function.

Executive function is a problem area in many disorders of learning style, such as, impulsive/compulsive disorders. It can be improved with retraining and medicines.

Neuropsychological evaluations may prove useful when problems in executive function are thought to be present. These evaluations are done at pediatric developmental centers.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Deane G. Baldwin, M.D., FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician in private practice for 39 years. Specializing in developmental disorders and school health. For more information other developmental or psychosocial disorders, please refer to www.abledev.com.