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Executive resources allow for flexible, adaptive, goal-directed responses to environmental circumstances in essentially all facets of daily living. Executive function is composed of related, but separable, components. This article will highlight three essential aspects of executive function: (1) working memory, (2) planning and organizing, and (3) inhibitory control. Working memory is the system by which information is maintained in an active mental state so that it can be used for other purposes. Planning and organizing of behavior involves the way in which individuals optimize the execution of multistep tasks to achieve a goal. Inhibitory control allows an individual to inhibit inappropriate responses and to shift responses when necessary. These aspects of executive function appear to depend in part on large-scale neural networks that are centered in distinct areas of prefrontal cortex, working in concert with other brain regions, such as parietal cortex and the basal ganglia. Executive function is a fundamental aspect of human cognition that is compromised in patients with a wide range of medical conditions.

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