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What are executive functions?

Functions that regulate & control cognitive processing


How do behavioural deficits link to executive functions?

Behaviour deficits stem from difficulties with executive functioning


Name 3 tests of executive processes.

1. Tower of Hanoi/London
2. Verbal/category fluency task


What do you do in the Tower of Hanoi task?

3 rods, one holding a stack of different coloured disks
You must move the entire stack to another rod following numerous rules:
- only move one disk at a time
- a disk can only be moved if it is the uppermost disk on the stack
- no disk may be placed on top of a smaller disk


How do people with frontal lobe damage do on the ToH task?

Have difficulty

Problems with planning (= combining components to complete a task)


Shallice (1982) found that lesions in WHICH area of the brain cause difficulties on the ToH task?

Left anterior lesions


Which researcher/s found that patients with PFC lesions performed worse than health controls on the ToH task?

Goel & Grafman (1995)


Goel & Grafman (1995) say that patients (with PFC lesions) have difficulty on the ToH task not because of planning deficits but because of...

An inability to resolve a goal-subgoal conflict


What does a verbal/category fluency task involve?

Must generate as many words beginning with a letter/in a category


How does damage to the frontal lobe affect performance on verbal/category fluency tasks?

Make less responses than healthy controls (3-4 words per min vs. 12+ words per min)
Repeat words


What did Baldo et al. (2000) find about verbal/category fluency tasks?

People with frontal lobe lesions are impaired (make less responses) compared to healthy controls


The individual does not have an over-learned programme for generating items from a category, so what must they do when doing a verbal/category fluency task?

Must run their own retrieval strategies whilst ensuring that items come from the correct category & aren’t repetitions


What does the WCST test?

A person's ability to follow rules, use feedback & amend their actions


What does the WCST involve?

There are 4 'key' cards - the participant must match other cards to each key card (depending on colour of shapes, number of shapes on cards, types of shapes on cards)
Pps discover sorting rules using correct/incorrect feedback from the experimenter


What sort of responses do healthy people make in the WCST?

Learn quickly, eventually acquire all rules, make few errors


What sort of responses do people with frontal lobe damage make in the WCST?

They learn the first rule but don’t change - make perseveration errors based on the old rule


What did Nelson (1976) find that patients with frontal lobe damage did on the WCST?

Even when they are told that the rule has changed, they still perseverate


Which researcher/s found that patients with frontal lobe damage were significantly more impaired than patients with non-frontal lobe damage?

Robinson et al. (1980)


What did Robinson et al. (1980) claim the WCST could be used for?

Distinguishing patients with frontal & non-frontal lesions


According to Shallice (2002), patients with frontal lobe damage have an impaired...

Supervisory Activating System


What does a person do/what can a person not do if their Supervisory Activating System is impaired?

Once a strategy has been adopted it keeps running because they can’t interrupt & change their ongoing activity


What happens if there isn't a well-established current activity & the SAS is damaged?

The system remains inert or is captured by another stimulus


What sort of behaviours do people with a damaged SAS produce?

Distractible & facetious behaviour

Show utilisation behaviour


What is utilisation behaviour?

The presentation of objects implies the order to grasp & use them (Lhermitte, 1983)


What balance is disturbed if an individual is showing utilisation behaviour?

The balance between their dependence on & independence from the outside world is disturbed


When a person is showing utilisation behaviour, what inhibitory function is suppressed?

The inhibitory function of the frontal lobes on the parietal lobes is suppressed


Who proposed the SAS model?

Norman & Shallice (1986)


According to the SAS model, which 2 processes manage the functioning & control of schemas?

1. Contention scheduling system
2. Supervisory activating system


What happens in the Contention Scheduling System (SAS model)?

Prior learning lets an activity run automatically (with little interference from the activity)
Sometimes activities come into conflict & one must be prioritised

The CS ensures that the correct schema is activated & prevents other competing actions from being executed simultaneously (through inhibition)


In the Contention Scheduling System (SAS model), when are schemata initiated?

When the level of activation (of the schemata) reaches a threshold