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Executive Control


Executive Control Research Faculty
Marie T. Banich, PhD

Marie T. Banich's research program takes a cognitive neuroscience approach to understanding brain processes involved in attentional and executive control. Her research team mainly focuses on using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine this issue in both neurologically-intact and clinical populations, in individuals ranging in age from adolescents to adulthood. Listed below are brief descriptions of the different areas of executive control research.

Executive Control Research Areas

1.  Neuroimaging to identify brain systems involved in attentional control in neurologically-intact individuals

Dr. Banich and her research group are interested in understanding the role of the prefrontal and parietal regions in attentional and executive control. Their research examines the role that each region plays in attentional control as well as the way in which these regions interact. Examples of this work include Banich et al. 2000, a,b, and Milham et al. 2002, 2003.

2. Neuroimaging and neuropsychological approaches to understand attentional problems in clinical populations

Using their model of attentional control, Dr. Banich and her research team examine problems of attentional regulation in clinical populations. Their research is funded by a 5-year NIMH grant in collaboration with Erik Willcutt to investigate this question in individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Her team is also collaborating with Dr. Thomas Crowley in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Colorado Denver to examine attentional dysfunction in adolescents with severe substance and conduct problems. Additionaly, in collaboration with Dr. Robert Freedman in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Colorado Denver, research examining the attentional dysfunction in individuals with schizophrenia is also under way. All three of these projects take advantage of the knowledge about the genetic bases of these disorders provided by the Institute of Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

3. Development of executive function during adolescents

Dr. Banich and her research team are also part of a multi-site study founded by the MacArthur Foundation Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice to investigate how executive functions develop from the preteen years through early adulthood. This study will examine three major aspects of executive control: a) the ability to self-regulate one's behavior, 2) the ability to make decisions and 3) the ability to understand and plan for the future. These abilities are being assessed behaviorally through a series of cognitive and psychosocial measures.