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Working Paper #11
Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function
Being able to focus, hold, and work with information in mind, filter distractions, and switch gears is like having an air traffic control system at a busy airport to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways. In the brain, this air traffic control mechanism is called executive functioning, a group of skills that helps us to focus on multiple streams of information at the same time, and revise plans as necessary. Acquiring the early building blocks of these skills is one of the most important and challenging tasks of the early childhood years, and the opportunity to build further on these rudimentary capacities is critical to healthy development through middle childhood, adolescence, and into early adult life.
This joint Working Paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs explains how these lifelong skills develop, what can disrupt their development, and how supporting them pays off in school and life.
Suggested citation: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2011). Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function: Working Paper No. 11. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu
InBrief: Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning
This edition of the InBrief series provides an overview of this Working Paper in both a two-page summary a five-minute video.
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