The new dimensions for infant learning - Prof. John Colombo 30 Oct 2019


This lecture will attempt to address the state-of-the-art with respect to many of these issues in the field of developmental science and recent work on clinical trials in nutrition.  It will present definitions and characterizations of executive function, the brain areas that are thought to be involved in executive function, the normative developmental course of executive function (extending from infancy through adolescence), and the degree to which executive function is considered to be trainable or malleable

2 min read

Executive function is a critical component of cognitive development.  In many ways, executive function represents those higher-order abilities that are often taken to define the human intellect: goal-directed behavior, controlled attention, inhibition, self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, planning, and strategic behavior.  The origins of executive function can be traced to late in the first year of life, and continue to develop well into early adulthood.  The brain areas that mediate the emergence of these skills are widely believed to be frontal and prefrontal cortex, and the developmental course of these skills are closely tied to the development of those brain areas.  A great deal of recent research on executive function is concerned with whether executive function represents a single unitary ability or whether it is actually comprised of several independent skills.  Other work is concerned with whether or not executive function is malleable, or whether it can be “trained”; for example, whether executive function can be improved with practice or with systemic interventions (e.g., nutrition), or whether practice/training on certain skills of executive function can result in improvements in other executive function skill.