Executive Functioning on Brain Development

Effects of ADHD and Executive Functioning on Brain Development


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PSY625: Biological Bases of Behavior

Jennifer Weniger

July 30, 2018

















Techniques for maintaining and enhancing executive function in children with ADHD is great potential benefit to children and to society. Improved executive function improves daily performance in children and adults suffering from ADHD. There is more and more research for brain deficits associated with ADHD. ADHD symptoms can include inattention and/or hyperactivity and acting impulsively. This disorder affects more than one in 20 under the age of 18, and two-thirds of those diagnosed continue to deal with symptoms as adults. Further research on the effects of ADHD and executive functioning would be beneficial for those suffering from the disorder. Symptoms of ADHD create significate impairment in social, academic, occupational functioning, and relationships (Bressert, 2018). Higher executive functioning would lead to the ability to perform task of daily living and the improvement of quality of life.

There are more and more studies of normal and abnormal brain development in children and adolescents. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study ADHD. The ones who will be helped by further studies and an increased understanding of ADHD and executive function deficit are the children and their families. Students who have these challenges need coaching from professionals who specialize in executive functioning problems. Students need to be taught the skills necessary to overcome their deficits. Executive function skills are not a guarantee to school success but without these skills the child will have difficulty at a certain point, which can be followed by a loss of self-esteem. Further knowledge will help children suffering from ADHD and executive disorder succeed in school and in life (Eckerd, Ruden, 2011).

There are seven skills associated with executive function, 1) self-awareness, 2) inhibition, 3) non-verbal working memory, 4) verbal working memory, 5) emotional self- regulation, 6) self-motivation, 7) planning and problem solving. Anyone exhibiting ADHD symptoms will have problems with all or most of these seven executive functions. These seven functions develop over time in chronological order. Starting with self-awareness at age 2 and ending with planning and problem-solving at age 30 in a neurotypical individual. An individual with ADHD id generally 30 to 40 percent behind in transitioning from one executive function to the next (Barkley, 2018).

There is need for more research in the significance of executive functioning deficits on ADHD. In the article, Interventions to improve executive functioning and working memory in school-aged children with AD(HD): a randomized controlled trail and stepped-care approach, the researchers investigated one executive function, working memory which plays an important part in academic performance. School-oriented interventions possibly help working memory problems and academic performance, but according to the authors, van der Dork, et al. (2013) that this hypothesis has not been studied systematically.

The study in this article was conducted in two parts, the first part used randomized controlled trail with school-aged children (8-12 yrs.) with ADHD. Using two groups that were randomly assigned. One part was a computerized working memory training or to a paying attention in class intervention. The second part of study determined specific characteristics that are related to non-response of the paying attention class intervention. The academic performance and neurocognitive functioning assessed before and after training. Then they are assessed 6 months after training (van der Donk, et al., 2013).

The article states that there is limited research but very promising results on working memory and executive function. This study has helped to expand our knowledge, especially when it comes to the effects of intervention in a classroom setting. This study shows promise and the need for further research around executive functioning and its effects on ADHD. It also showed that there is possible intervention to help children’s academic performance through working memory training.


The purpose of this research is to understand the effects of executive functioning deficit on a child with ADHD. Research done by Karl Pribram in the 1970’s showed that executive functions originates primarily from the prefrontal cortex. With more research in this area can help expand this research into broader fields such as general psychology and even education. In the prefrontal cortex there are four known circuits that relate to executive functioning and by studying these circuits to see how they work or do not work in children with ADHD. These circuits can tell us in what area a child need smore help in. These circuits regulate memory, time management, emotion, self-awareness. Looking at ADHD in relation to the function of these circuits we can understand where symptoms originate. To understand how impaired a circuit is we can start to explain ADHD symptoms. Some children may have only a deficit in working memory, or emotion or regulation problems. While some children may only have difficulties in one area but less in other areas. By researching executive functioning deficit can help in the development treatment plans tailored to a child’s specific needs (Barkley, 2018). Using MRI to measure brain size in this research can contribute important information and evidence to support the fact that ADHD is a brain disorder. The MRIs can also help show if cognitive therapy and/or medications effect the brains development. Understanding the brain activity of ADHD patients can help develop appropriate treatment for each individual patient. This research will be done with the assistance of Chesapeake Regional Neuroscience Institute. Through the institute our participants will be selected, and their facility also will provide MRI studies for our research.


Barkley, R. (2018). 7 Executive Function Deficits Tied to ADHD. ADDITUDE Inside the ADHD Mind. Retrieved from: https://www.additudemag.com/7-executive-function-deficits-linked-to-adhd/

Bressert, S. (2018). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Symptoms. PsychCentral. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/disorders/adhd/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd-symptoms/

Eckerd, M., Rudin, S. (2018). The Testing Ground for Executive Functions? ADDITUDE Inside the ADHD Mind. Retrieved from: https://www.additudemag.com/executive-function-skills-adhd-symptoms-middle-school/

van der Donk, M. A., Hiemstra-Beernink, A., Tjeenk-Kalff, A. C., van der Leij, A. V., & Lindauer, R. L. (2013). Interventions to improve executive functioning and working memory in school-aged children with AD(H)D: a randomised controlled trial and stepped-care approach. BMC Psychiatry, 13(1), 1-7. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-23

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