What is executive functioning? 

Executive functions are a set of mental skills mediated by the prefrontal cortex. They operate much like the conductor of an orchestra and help the brain to coordinate and engage in a range of tasks including:

  • Organize and prioritize tasks
  • Focus, sustain, and shift attention
  • Regulate alertness and processing speed, as well as sustain effort
  • Manage frustration and modulate emotions
  • Utilize working memory and recall information
  • Monitor and self-regulate behaviors.

Academic achievement, social engagement, and day-to-day functioning place an increased demand on this set of skills. From a practical perspective, executive functioning represents a person’s ability to (1) understand cause and effect, (2) use foresight and to think and plan strategically, (3) engage in novel complex problem solving, (4) generate alternative problem-solving strategies, and (5) see a different perspective.