Executive Functions Brain Functional System

  • Alfredo ArdilaEmail author


The historical development of “executive function” is initially presented, underlining that this is a relatively new concept in cognitive neurosciences. It is emphasized that the definition of an executive function includes a diversity of cognitive and behavioral abilities, such as reasoning, problem-solving, inhibitory control, and temporality of behavior. Traditionally, executive functions have been directly related to the prefrontal activity, but at least three major prefrontal syndromes have been distinguished: dorsolateral, orbital, and mesial. Several authors have suggested that there are two major executive functions, one directly related to intellectual and metacognitive abilities and the other to the control of the emotional/motivational dimension of behavior. More recently, it has been suggested that executive functions not only depend upon the frontal lobes, but also other brain areas are involved. Two meta-analytic studies directed to pinpoint the brain areas involved in executive functions are discussed. Results of these two studies are coincidental: Executive functions are supported by a brain system involving the prefrontal and parietal areas, plus the anterior cingulate/supplementary motor area; it also includes some subcortical areas, in particular, the putamen and the thalamus.


Executive functions Brain asymmetry Prefrontal cortex Parietal lobe Supplementary motor area Basal ganglia 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sechenov UniversityMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Albizu UniversityMiamiUSA

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