scuole

Gli studenti si trovano regolarmente a confrontarsi con situazioni impegnative: che si tratti di raccogliere e ponderare informazioni, pianificare la preparazione delle verifiche o trovare soluzioni semplici o complesse. Per tutte queste competenze diventano fondamentali le funzioni esecutive.

FUNZIONI ESECUTIVE

Le funzioni esecutive, che rappresentano le funzioni cognitive complesse, possono essere definite come procedure cognitive che hanno lo scopo di pianificare ed organizzare i comportamenti e le emozioni di un individuo, allorquando si confronta con nuove realtà contestuali, particolarmente difficoltose, che richiedono la mobilizzazione di strategie adattative (Owen, 1997). Le funzioni esecutive, quindi, entrano in gioco ogni qualvolta l’individuo compia azioni finalizzate: esse infatti permettono il riconoscimento e il mantenimento in memoria degli stimoli utili, la costruzione di un piano di azione rispetto ad essi, la scelta comportamentale per farvi fronte ed infine il controllo dei risultati (feedback), al fine, se necessario di apporre delle modifiche alle decisioni successive. 

Possiamo definire le funzioni esecutive come quelle abilità che stanno alla base delle strategie di problem solving e sono, secondo il modello teorico di Miyake et al. (2000), tre:

L’inibizione o controllo inibitorio

ossia la capacità di eliminare, nell’esecuzione di un compito, tutte le variabili che possono avere il ruolo di distrattori nel raggiungimento dello scopo. (Esempio: per prendere un buon voto, gli allievi decidono di fare i compiti di matematica prima di uscire a giocare a calcio.)

La memoria di
lavoro

che permette di conservare il ricordo di tutte quelle nuove informazioni utili allo svolgimento di un’attività. (Esempio: gli allievi tengono a mente i risultati intermedi mentre fanno un calcolo.)

La flessibilità di risposta cognitiva

ossia la capacità di modificare la propria azione in base ai cambiamenti dell’ambiente, dovuti anche al compito che si sta eseguendo. Esempio: dopo la pausa gli allievi tornano in classe e riprendono la materia che stavano già studiando.)

Sebbene i tre sottoprocessi si focalizzino su aspetti diversi, sono strettamente correlati gli uni agli altri e costituiscono un’entità unica, per cui non possono essere considerati separatamente. A seconda del compito da svolgere, tuttavia, sono chiamati in causa in misura diversa. Determinate situazioni richiedono per esempio più inibizione, altre più memoria di lavoro (Walk & Evers, 2013).

Molte delle azioni che compiamo nella vita di tutti i giorni sono automatizzate, cioè le eseguiamo senza riflettere e senza pianificarle attivamente. Le funzioni esecutive entrano in gioco soprattutto quando ci troviamo in situazioni inedite e complesse che non riusciamo a gestire con azioni automatizzate (Walk & Evers, 2013).

L’allenamento delle funzioni esecutive si fonda proprio su questa evidenza e prevede due metodi:

Allenamento cognitivo: attività computerizzate, aiuti per migliorare l’attenzione (ad es. immagine evocativa sul banco), fasi di risoluzione di un compito

Allenamento fisico-cognitivo: Compiti impegnativi dal punto di vista della coordinazione (es. calcolo mentale mentre si fanno affondi). L’allenamento fisico-cognitivo propone un nuovo approccio che i ricercatori hanno elaborato partendo dal presupposto che l’abbinamento tra allenamento cognitivo e allenamento fisico moltiplica gli effetti positivi (Stöglehner, 2012). Il movimento è quindi un elemento centrale degli esercizi proposti.

Oweb, a.M. (1997) The Functional Organization of Working Memory Processes Within Human Lateral Frontal Cortex: ThContribution of Functional Neuroimaging

Miyake, A., Friedman, N.P., Emerson, M.J., Witzki, A.H., Howerter, A., & Wager, T.D. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex “frontal lobe” tasks: a latent variable analysis. Cogn. Psychol. 41, 49–100.

Walk, L., & Evers, W. (2013). Förderung exekutiver Funktionen: Wissenschaft, Praxis, Förderspiele. Bad Rodach: Wehrfritz GmbH.

Stöglehner, W. (2012). Förderung exekutiver Funktionen durch Bewegung: Eine Lehrer / innen – Handreichung für die Schule. Abgerufen am 3. Februar 2020

studi e ricerche scientifiche

Cognitive Training with Neurofeedback Using NIRS Improved Cognitive Functions in Young Adults: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial

(1) Background: A previous study has shown that cognitive training with neurofeedback (CT-NF) using down-regulation improves cognitive functions in young adults. Neurofeedback has two strategies for manipulating brain activity (down-regulation and upregulation). However, the benefit of CT-NF with the upregulation of cognitive functions is still unknown. In this study, we investigated whether the upregulation of CT-NF improves a wide range of cognitive functions compared to cognitive training alone. (2) Methods: In this double-blinded randomized control trial (RCT), 60 young adults were randomly assigned to one of three groups: CT-NF group, CT alone group, and an active control (ACT) group who

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Effectiveness of Cognitive Training for School-Aged Children and Adolescents With Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review

Problems with executive functions (EF) are hallmark characteristics of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Therefore, this review analyzed the efficacy of cognitive training for EF in reducing ADHD symptomatology and improving educational, interpersonal, and occupational outcomes in children and adolescents with this disorder. A systematic search, using a PICO (population/participant, intervention/indicator, comparator/control, outcome) framework was carried out. From 2008 to 2018, resorting to EBSCOhost, the following databases were searched: Academic Search Complete, ERIC, MEDLINE with Full Text, PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO, and Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Twenty-two studies were included in this review. Of the 18 studies that reported performance-based measures of

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Brain Plasticity-Based Therapeutics

The primary objective of this review article is to summarize how the neuroscienceof brain plasticity, exploiting new findings in fundamental, integrative and cognitiveneuroscience, is changing the therapeutic landscape for professional communitiesaddressing brain-based disorders and disease. After considering the neurological basesof training-driven neuroplasticity, we shall describe how this neuroscience-guidedperspective distinguishes this new approach from (a) the more-behavioral, traditionalclinical strategies of professional therapy practitioners, and (b) an even more widely appliedpharmaceutical treatment model for neurological and psychiatric treatment domains. Withthat background, we shall argue that neuroplasticity-based treatments will be an importantpart of future best-treatment practices in neurological and psychiatric medicine.

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The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities

Scientific evidence based on neuroimaging approaches over the last decade has demonstrated the efficacy of physical activity improving cognitive health across the human lifespan. Aerobic fitness spares age-related loss of brain tissue during aging, and enhances functional aspects of higher order regions involved in the control of cognition. More active or higher fit individuals are capable of allocating greater attentional resources toward the environment and are able to process information more quickly. These data are suggestive that aerobic fitness enhances cognitive strategies enabling to respond effectively to an imposed challenge with a better yield in task performance. In turn, animal

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The relationship between working memory, IQ, and mathematical skills in children

The aim of the present study was to investigate the contribution of working memory and verbal ability (measured by vocabulary) to mathematical skills in children. A sample of 206 seven- and eight-year-olds was administered tests of these cognitive skills. A different pattern emerged that was dependent on both the memory task and the math skill. In the seven-year olds, visuo-spatial and verbal memory uniquely predicted performance on the math tests; however, in the eight-year olds, only visuo-spatial short-term memory predicted math scores. Even when differences in vocabulary were statistically accounted, memory skills uniquely predicted mathematical skills and arithmetical abilities. This

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Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment

There is growing evidence for the relationship between working memory and academic attainment. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether working memory is simply a proxy for IQ or whether there is a unique contribution to learning out- comes. The findings indicate that children’s working memory skills at 5 years of age were the best predictor of literacy and numeracy 6 years later. IQ, in contrast, accounted for a smaller portion of unique variance to these learning outcomes. The results demon- strate that working memory is not a proxy for IQ but rather repre- sents a dissociable

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Working Memory, but Not IQ, Predicts Subsequent Learning in Children with Learning Difficulties

The purpose of the present study was to compare the predictive power of working memory and IQ in children identified as having learning difficulties. The term “working memory” refers to the capacity to store and manipulate information in mind for brief periods of time. Working-memory capacity is strongly related to learning abilities and academic progress, predicting current and subse- quent scholastic attainment of children across the school years in both literacy and numeracy. Children aged between 7 and 11 years were tested at Time 1 on measures of working memory, IQ, and learning. They were then retested 2 years later

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