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Front Psychol. 2014 Apr 7;5:285. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00285. eCollection 2014.

Getting the right grasp on executive function.

Author information

1
Department of Kinesiology, The Brain in Action Laboratory, University of Lethbridge Lethbridge, AB, Canada.
2
Department of Modern Languages, University of Lethbridge Lethbridge, AB, Canada.
3
Department of Psychology, Univeristy of Lethbridge Lethbridge, AB, Canada.
4
Department of Education, University of Lethbridge Lethbridge, AB, Canada.
5
Department of Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge Lethbridge, AB, Canada.

Abstract

Executive Function (EF) refers to important socio-emotional and cognitive skills that are known to be highly correlated with both academic and life success. EF is a blanket term that is considered to include self-regulation, working memory, and planning. Recent studies have shown a relationship between EF and motor control. The emergence of motor control coincides with that of EF, hence understanding the relationship between these two domains could have significant implications for early detection and remediation of later EF deficits. The purpose of the current study was to investigate this relationship in young children. This study incorporated the Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) and two motor assessments with a focus on precision grasping to test this hypothesis. The BRIEF is comprised of two indices of EF: (1) the Behavioral Regulation Index (BRI) containing three subscales: Inhibit, Shift, and Emotional Control; (2) the Metacognition Index (MI) containing five subscales: Initiate, Working Memory, Plan/Organize, Organization of Materials, and Monitor. A global executive composite (GEC) is derived from the two indices. In this study, right-handed children aged 5-6 and 9-10 were asked to: grasp-to-construct (Lego® models); and grasp-to-place (wooden blocks), while their parents completed the BRIEF questionnaire. Analysis of results indicated significant correlations between the strength of right hand preference for grasping and numerous elements of the BRIEF including the BRI, MI, and GEC. Specifically, the more the right hand was used for grasping the better the EF ratings. In addition, patterns of space-use correlated with the GEC in several subscales of the BRIEF. Finally and remarkably, the results also showed a reciprocal relationship between hand and space use for grasping and EF. These findings are discussed with respect to: (1) the developmental overlap of motor and executive functions; (2) detection of EF deficits through tasks that measure lateralization of hand and space use; and (3) the possibility of using motor interventions to remediate EF deficits.

KEYWORDS:

assessment; development; frontal lobe; grasping movements; handedness; intervention; left hemisphere; space use

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