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J Child Neurol. 2004 Oct;19(10):785-97.

Prefrontal executive function syndromes in children.

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Western Institute for Neurodevelopmental Studies and Interventions, Western Institute for Neurodevelopmental Studies and Interventions, Boulder, CO 80302, USA.


"Executive function" is a term describing the processes required for conscious control of thought, emotion, and action that are central to the management of one's day-to-day life. Executive function is subserved by the prefrontal cortex and related subcortical structures. Disorders affecting the prefrontal cortex-subcortical system are numerous and heterogeneous, but contemporary research has begun to elucidate the mechanisms and consequences of dysfunction in various subsystems with increasing specificity. Prefrontal executive dysfunction results in impaired regulation of cognition, attention, behaviors, arousal, and emotion, all of which have serious and pervasive consequences for functioning across the life span. These executive function deficits are typically difficult to treat, ameliorate, or remediate and require sensitive handling by caretakers. Executive dysfunction can arise as a consequence of many different factors (metabolic, genetic, certain types of epilepsy, cerebral dysgenesis, prematurity, traumatic brain injury, hypoxia, and toxic exposure). The present review delineates the features of prefrontal executive function deficits in children and proposes a roadmap for their diagnosis, treatment, and management.

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