Elements of Executive Brain Function

The human brain oversees all bodily functions, unconscious and conscious. Unconscious processes are outside our control and occur automatically. They include breathing, gut function, hormones, etc. Conscious (Con + science) processes, means with awareness or knowledge. These are the executive functions carried out by the frontal lobes and are listed below. We can hone these and improve on them with exposure and repetition.

Higher level functions include:

  • Arousal/alertness
  • Orientation
  • Attention
  • Planning/organizing (short, mid, and long term)
  • Problem-solving
  • Initiating, maintaining, and terminating a task
  • Logic and reason
  • Multitasking
  • Verbal fluency
  • Learning – processing, comprehension, storing, and/or retrieving information (memory-hippocampus)
  • Mood regulation
  • Inhibition and the capacity to resist temptation
  • Humor
  • Culturally specific social appropriateness
  • Empathy for people and animals/bonding
  • Motivation (anticipation, desire, drive)
  • Judgement – hindsight, insight, and foresight
  • Abstract concepts (the ability to make the leap from the symbolic to the real world)
  • Understanding different points of view
  • Reasoning
  • Organizing – categorizing, generalizing, discriminating, grouping
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Calculation
  • Deduction
  • Considering

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