Articles

Executive Function

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Adaptive skills and executive function in autism spectrum disorders. - There is active debate regarding the nature of executive dysfunction in autism. Additionally, investigations have yet to show a relationship between deficits in executive function and the everyday behavioral difficulties that may originate from them. The present study examined the relationship between executive abilities and adaptive behavior in 35 children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, using two parent reports of everyday functioning, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS) and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF). Results found several relationships: The Initiate and Working Memory domains were negatively correlated with most domains of adaptive behavior. Also, the Communication and Socialization domains of the VABS were negatively correlated with several areas of executive functioning, suggesting that impairments in executive abilities are strongly associated with the deficits in.orgmunication, play and social relationships found in children with autism by Gilotty L, Kenworthy L, Sirian L, Black DO, Wagner AE. / Department of Pediatrics, Division of Psychology, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC 20009, USA. lgilotty@cnmc.org

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“Bridging the Gap - Opioid Peptides and Executive Function”  “The cobbler should stick to his last”. Old English Proverb by Paul Shattock & Paul Whiteley, University of Sunderland, UK One of the main objectives of conferences is that people with differing background and understanding can.orge together and not only promote their own studies and points of view but also learn from the experience of others. This is particularly important in the study of autism where so many disciplines are involved. The Courchesnes (1997) discussed this issue with regard to the differing needs of clinicians and practitioners, and scientific researchers and have pointed out the.orgmonalities and dichotomies inherent in their approaches. There is an additional difficulty within the field of autism in that a number of apparently totally different and, at first sight, i.orgpatible sets of understanding and experience are required. Although the syllabi for modern degrees in psychology require a basic appreciation of neurology, graduates cannot be expected to be.orgfortable with more.orgplex biological and neurological processes. Even worse, those with a physiological or pharmacological training are often dismissive of concepts, which involve measuring elements, which cannot be seen, weighed or quantified by physical methods. One of the most intractable divides, within the field of autism at least, is that which separates brain biochemistry and the psychological theories, which underlie the symptoms by which autism is still defined. This paper represents an attempt to explore some aspect of that gap. Given that no one really understands the neurochemical workings involved in the central nervous system especially when they may well be abnormal, as in the case of autism, the task is a difficult one. The speculations contained in the following pages, are offered and can be accepted as no more than that.

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Executive Dysfunction - The term “executive functioning”  refers to mental processes involved in goal-directed activity.  The work on this has been primarily done in Neuropsychology but the implications for educators are important. Executive functioning has been rather under-discussed in the school context as yet (stay tuned for my dissertation J) where these issues have been attributed to failures in discipline rather than brain function by Kristine S. Knight

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Executive dysfunction in autism - ‘Executive function’ is an umbrella term for functions such as planning, working memory, impulse control, inhibition and mental flexibility, as well as for the initiation and monitoring of action. The primacy of executive dysfunction in autism is a topic of much debate, as are recent attempts to examine subtypes of executive function within autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders that are considered to implicate frontal lobe function. This article will review cognitive behavioural studies of planning, mental flexibility and inhibition in autism. It is concluded that more detailed research is needed to fractionate the executive system in autism by assessing a wide range of executive functions as well as their neuroanatomical correlates in the same individuals across the lifespan by Elisabeth L. Hill  Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Whitehead Building, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK 

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Executive Functioning - Executive Functioning is the brain's ability to absorb information, interpret this information, and make decisions based upon this information. For example, most people have a routine when they get up in the morning. Some mornings you might look out the window and see something is dripping from the sky. This dripping is interpreted as "rain" which implies a set of rules (i.e., needing to wear different clothes, the soccer game will be canceled which means you need to make other arrangements for an after school activity, rolling down the windows while you drive is not wise, you don't need to water the grass today, etc.), by Alex Michaels

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Executive Functions in Young Children with Autism  by Elizabeth M. Griffith,
Bruce F. Pennington, Elizabeth A.Wehner, and Sally J. Rogers
 

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Executive functioning and memory strategy use in children with autism: The influence of task constraints on spontaneous rehearsal - An executive functioning deficit in autism should be reflected in a low level of active strategy use on memory tasks. This study was a direct examination of memory strategy use in two problem-solving situations by children with autism. Two groups with autism were tested, one high-functioning group and one with moderate cognitive impairments. All participants took part in two memory experiments to examine the effect of changing the nature of the learning situation on strategy use: one experiment used a serial recall task, and the other a recall readiness task. In contrast to previous studies, significant spontaneous strategy use was found on both memory tasks, particularly among the high-functioning group. Similarly, changing task structure was found to have an important impact on increasing strategy use, particularly for the moderate-functioning group. However, the overall rate of strategy use for the children with autism was still lower than would be expected for non-handicapped groups. The results support an executive functioning deficit interpretation, but a deficit that is less extensive among high-functioning individuals. Practical implications of the study in terms of cognitive training are also discussed by James M. Bebko, York University, Canada and Christina Ricciuti, York University, Canada

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Memory in Autism: Review and Synthesis - Much research about memory in autism concerns the hypothesis that autism is similar to adult-onset amnesia. Initial support for the hypothesis came from post-mortem studies of individuals with autism showing abnormalities in the hippocampus and related brain structures, as well as behavioral studies finding contrasts between intact cued recall and impaired free recall and recognition in autism. The hypothesis was later brought into question by the finding of intact performance in individuals with autism on explicit memory tasks typically impaired in adult-onset amnesia. The present paper proposes a possible reconciliation of these contradictory findings, suggesting that there is selective damage to the limbic-prefrontal episodic memory system, sparing the limbic-only perceptual representation system, and the semantic memory system. This view is consistent with other evidence for early selective damage to other systems involving cooperation between the limbic system and the medial prefrontal cortex in autism. by Dorrit Ben Shalom / (Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben Gurion University of the Negev) 

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Relations between Executive Function, Language Acquisition, and Autism - Executive function, specifically inhibitory control has been indicated as a major prerequisite to language learning in children. Specifically, inhibitory control is thought to help infants cope with discrepant labeling (Baldwin & Moses, 2001; Brand, 2003). It is suggested that individuals with autism have difficulty with executive functioning (Mitchell, 1997; Ozonoff, Pennington, & Rogers, 1991; Klin, Volkmar, & Sparrow, 2000; Baron-Cohen, Tager-Flusberg, & Cohen, 2000). It was proposed by Ozonoff et al. (1991), that people with autism may insist on sameness and repetitive behavior, and may have problems keeping attention because they have deficits in executive control. Studies by Ozonoff et al. (1991) suggest that children with autism tended to act impulsively and were unable to move their attention from one task to another. Other studies have indicated that individuals with autism have problems with classical executive function tasks, such as the Wisconsin Card Sort and the Tower of Hanoi (Hughes & Russell, 1993). As was suggested earlier, executive functioning relates to language acquisition. This evidence potentially relates to the language acquisition of autistic individuals in that people with autism seems to have deficits in executive function and therefore have problems with learning language. There is not much evidence that supports this hypothesis, however. Further research is required to confirm the relationship between executive function, language acquisition, and autism.

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SELF-REGULATION:  EXECUTIVE FUNCTION ROUTINES IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS WITH AUTISM - Mark Ylvisaker, Ph.D., College of Saint Rose Albany, New York, USA ylvisakm@mail.strose.edu 

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Theory of mind in autism:  its relationship to executive function and central coherence.  This paper appeared in D. Cohen & F. Volkmar (eds) Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. 2nd Edition, John Wiley and Sons. 1997 - Does the autistic child have a "theory of mind"? This was the question - and the title of the paper - that opened this area (Baron-Cohen, Leslie, 4 and Frith, 1985). The question was asked because of the interest that was developing concerning the normal child's understanding of mental states. Indeed, two years before this was asked of
children with autism, the related question had been asked of normal 4 year olds. Wimmer and Perner (1983) had devised an elegant paradigm to make this issue tractable, in which the child was presented with a short story, with the simplest of plots. The story essentially involved one character not being present when an object was moved, and therefore not knowing that the object was in a new location. The subject being tested is asked where the character thinks the object is.  Wimmer and Perner called this the False Belief test, since the focus was on the subject's ability
to infer a story character's mistaken belief about a situation. These authors found that normal 4 year olds could correctly infer that the character would think the object was where the character had last left it, rather than where it actually was. This was impressive evidence for the normal child's ability to distinguish between their own knowledge (about reality) and someone else's false belief (about reality). 

 
 

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