As a child, when thinking about how my brain worked, I imagined tiny people racing around my brain carrying out directions given by the command center. Now I know … the command center is my prefrontal cortex!
Elkhonon Goldberg says that the prefrontal cortex is “the one part of your brain that makes you who you are.”
Particularly if you teach or are a parent, you have probably seen kids with less than prime functioning executive function. This is not so unusual, as the prefrontal cortex is the last area of our brains to get connected, and is not fully formed until we reach our mid-twenties.
Executive function issues are not limited to childhood and teenage years; they often can continue on to adulthood. Both children and adults who have issues with their EF can be “misunderstood as being willfully disorganized or lazy, possessing a bad attitude or, from a parental viewpoint, ‘doing this on purpose to drive me crazy.’” according to this New York Times article, Lack Direction? Evaluate Your Brain’s C.E.O.
In humans, exercise improves what scientists call “executive function,” the set of abilities that allows you to select behavior that’s appropriate to the situation, inhibit inappropriate behavior and focus on the job at hand in spite of distractions.
For a succinct delineation of EF’s impact on learning, along with suggestions for managing some of the issues that can arise when EF is not optimal, check out these two pages (mentioned in an early July post) at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
For those who prefer listening, The Brain Science Podcast with Ginger Campbell, MD, has an in-depth discussion about executive function and our frontal lobes, based upon the book by Elkhonon Goldberg, The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind.