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Proposed model of executive functions based on factorial analyses
INTRODUCTION. Since Lezak coined the term executive functions to refer to the mental capabilities that are considered essential for performing efficacious, creative and socially acceptable behaviour, they have gradually grown in importance in neuropsychological research. Different models have been proposed to explain their nature, but there is no general agreement as to whether we are dealing with a unitary construct or a multimodal processing system with independent, but interconnected, components. With the aim of gaining a deeper knowledge of the structure of this construct, researchers have conducted lesion, neuroimaging and, more recently, factorial analysis studies, the latter being seen as a promising methodology for expanding our knowledge about such a generic concept as the executive functions. DEVELOPMENT. The purpose of this study is to carry out a systematic review of factorial models of attention and executive control in adults, between the years 1991 and 2016, using the PubMed, OvidSP and PsycINFO databases. Altogether, 33 papers were reviewed. Based on the literature, an integrating proposal of the executive functions is put forward.
CONCLUSIONS. Although we do not have just one single model that can account for the complexity of the executive functions, there does seem to be general agreement on their multidimensionality. In factorial analyses, there is strong evidence of updating, inhibition and alternation, although there are also studies that propose novel factors. Our integrating proposal aims to combine the executive processes found in the literature with their corresponding neuroanatomical correlates, and defends the stance that the ideal methodology should use information from lesion studies, neuroimaging techniques and psychometric-computational models.
AttentionCognitive flexibilityDecision-makingExecutive functionsFactorial analysesInhibitionMultitaskingPlanningVerbal fluencyWorking memory