Following the development in recent decades of scientific research based on neuroimaging techniques and computational methodologies, it has been possible to establish the mechanisms of the functioning of the human mind when activating cognitive reasoning procedures.
Thus, today there is a large consensus on define executive functions (FFEE) as a set of processes, the ultimate goal is to follow the execution and determine the control of this cognitive and therefore behavioral activity in the individual.
Executive functions and their importance in mental processes
The so-called executive functions are located in the frontal lobes and are mainly involved in specific cognitive operations such as memorization, metacognition, learning and reasoning.
At the practical level, therefore, executive functions allow actions such as planning events or situations, choosing and deciding between different options, distinguishing between relevant stimuli and eliminating irrelevant ones. keep the attention on a task in a sustained manner, Decide what type of motor movement is appropriate at a given time, and so on. All are included in three more general classes of functions (Tirapu-Ustárroz et al, 2008):
- Ability to formulate objectives.
- Ability to plan processes and establish strategies to achieve these goals.
- Ability to achieve goals and raise them effectively.
So it seems that proper functioning of executive functions allows for greater competition for the individual by regulating their behavior and executing it effectively.
Executive functions training and improvement activities
Let’s see how these types of faculties can be trained through the implementation of simple exercises and daily activities:
1. Description of the appearance of an object or a person
Many abilities are involved in this activity such as establishment of differential characteristics, development of categories, Structure linguistic discourse, vocabulary, focus attention on relevant details. On the other hand, alternative thinking is stimulated, because this object is valued from an objective perspective (depending on its origin, material, history, current and future use) by eliminating prejudices or subjective appreciations.
2. Discover the guidelines
The pursuit of incomplete series, for example, involves both deductive and inductive abstract reasoning processes. Thus, our mind must analyze all the physical characteristics of the elements available to find patterns and common traits in order to deduce what will be the next component. This process is essential for human beings as it becomes a great resource in the generation of expectations and in decision-making, The two essential capacities for our psyche and our survival.
3. Development of alternative action plans
One of the basic procedures of executive functions it is related to mental flexibility when thinking on everyday situations or events. Therefore, one practice that exercises this ability widely is to develop various alternative explanations for the causes of the experiences presented to us or to consider other options other than an established initial plan.
When we generate multiple perspectives on a fact, we manage to take a more objective stance, again resorting to in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of each option and allowing us to draw more rational conclusions. Thus, detailing all the steps to be followed in each proposed plan also involves the implementation of processes such as abstract reasoning, finding analogies, categorization or creating expectations.
4. Practice creative ability
Research shows how creativity is becoming a central component of human intelligence. this ability it can be stimulated on a daily basis simply by performing a routine task in a different way, by modifying the procedures which are automated in their execution.
An example of this would be working using different paths, solving a problem in an innovative way, or changing the route to the supermarket when shopping. It is said to be a creative process that includes the exploration and application phases. like that, looking for alternative methodologies to resolve situations it is essential for the implementation of the first of the indicated phases.
At the biological level, this facilitates the generation of new neuronal connections and therefore new learning. It should be noted that automatisms and routines are forms of energy saving that our brain resorts to due to the large volume of mental activity that it constantly has to process. Which means they can be considered as adaptive mechanisms, First. However, an excess in this inertia-based style of functioning decreases competition in the optimal exercise of our intellectual capacity.
5. Use of metaphors
Using this type of resource when communicating our ideas involves a prior process where different complex skills are combined. On the one hand, the procedures for retrieving information stored in our memory relating to past experiences and referring to the elements used in the metaphor must be performed. In contrast, the establishment of analogies is activated where the similarities between the information contained in the concrete message and the content of the metaphor are linked. To do this, we must analyze the common aspects, establish categories and activate the attention span. distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information.
6. Exercise of selective and sustained attention span
The innovative activity of Tda requires, among other processes, the investment of a great intensity of attention and concentration skills. Activities such as finding differences between received stimuli, learning a new language, or playing a musical instrument, for example, involve:
- A great activation of the working memory, which is the one that works with the information in front of you for a certain time and allows you to generate a specific result or response – memorizing a phone number to dial in seconds, for example.
- Create new connections which promotes an increase in cognitive flexibility and in the volume of new and discordant information to be stored.
- The implementation of so-called inhibitory control (the ability to control impulsive or inappropriate responses to the situation in question) Inhibitory control is closely linked to the discriminatory attentional capacity, because in the event of irrelevant stimulation, the executive functions are responsible for sending the order not reacting to this information.
- Kolb, B. & Wishaw IQ (2006) Human Neuropsychology, 5th edition. Pan-American medical editorial: Madrid.
- Tirapu-Ustarroz, J., and Luna-Lario, P. (2008). Neuropsychology of executive functions. Manual of Neuropsychology, 219-249.
- Wujec, T. (2006). Mental gymnastics. Planet editions: Madrid.