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Appl Neuropsychol Child. 2013;2(2):104-15. doi: 10.1080/21622965.2013.748386. Epub 2013 Jan 18.

From movement to thought: the development of executive function.

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This article presents a very simple definition of executive functioning (EF). Although EF is traditionally understood as a cognitive function dependent upon top-down cortical control, we challenge this model. We propose that the functional architecture of the brain evolved to meet the needs of interactive behavior and that cognition develops to control the motor system, which is of paramount importance in adaptation, essentially a manifestation of EF. We propose that traditional models of cognition are incomplete characterizations of EF and that procedural learning and "automatic" behaviors are the most basic, bottom-up functions that support all EF. We propose that motor development in children demonstrates how all knowledge is grounded in sensorimotor interaction and how interactive behavior generates both procedural and declarative knowledge, which later interact to generate EF. This model emphasizes the critical importance of motor behavior in children and stresses the importance of the pediatric motor examination in understanding the development of EF. This model also has implications for why traditional tests of EF have little predictive validity in both children and adults.

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