Executive function is impacted by dementia, concussion and brain injury

Executive function is impacted by dementia, concussion and brain injury

The executive functions play a critical role in a person’s ability to function normally. When there are problems with these skills, people may struggle with different areas of life, including school, work, and relationships.

Declines in executive function are also a feature of dementia and may appear early in its course. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) can also impact executive function abilities.

Impairments in executive functions can have a major impact on the ability to perform such tasks as planning, prioritizing, organizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and controlling emotional reactions.

Difficulties with executive functions can affect people in different ways and to differing degrees of severity. Some problems that people may experience if they have executive function deficits include:

Anxiety when routines are disrupted • Often losing belongings • Often being late due to poor time management • Difficulty prioritizing things that need to be done • Difficulty switching between tasks or multitasking • Problems completing tasks • Trouble controlling impulsive behaviors

People may experience problems in several key areas

Declines in executive function are also a feature of dementia and may appear early in its course as well as in people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and concussions.

People with deficits in this area of executive functioning have difficulty getting materials organized, distinguishing between relevant and non-relevant information, anticipating and planning for future events, estimating the time needed to complete tasks, and simply getting started on a task.

People who are easily distracted miss important information. They are distracted not only by things around them but also by their own thoughts. They have difficulty shifting attention when necessary and can get stuck on a thought, thinking only about that topic.

People who have a hard time regulating alertness may become drowsy when they have to sit still and be quiet in order to listen or read material that they find boring. It is not that they are over-tired; they simply cannot sustain alertness unless they are actively engaged. In addition, the speed at which they take in and understand information can affect performance.

People with impairments in this area of executive functioning may have a very low tolerance for frustration, such as when they don’t how to do a task. They can also be extremely sensitive to criticism. Difficult emotions can quickly become overwhelming and emotional reactions may be very intense.

Working memory helps an individual hold information long enough to use it in the short term, focus on a task, and remember what to do next. If people have impairments in working memory, they may have trouble remembering and following directions, memorizing and recalling facts or spelling words, computing problems in their head, or retrieving information from memory when they need it.

When people have deficits in the ability to regulate their behavior, it can significantly impede social relationships. If people have difficulty inhibiting behavior, they may react impulsively without thought to the context of the situation, or they may over-focus on the reactions of others by becoming too inhibited and withdrawn in interactions.

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concussion • traumatic brain injury •
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