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Revue de neuropsychologie

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Executive functioning and brain networks Volume 6, issue 4, Octobre-Novembre-Décembre 2014

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Authors
1 Université de Liège,
Centre de Recherche du Cyclotron,
allée du 6-août, no 8 (B30),
4000 Liège, Belgique
2 Université de Liège,
Département de psychologie : cognition et comportement,
boulevard du Rectorat 3 (B33),
4000 Liège, Belgique
3 Fonds national de la recherche scientifique (FRS-FNRS), 1000 Bruxelles,
Belgique
* Correspondance

Since the initial observations of Luria [1], the cerebral localization of executive processes was a key-point of research in cognitive neuroscience. In a first time, studies of brain damaged patients showed the main involvement of frontal areas. However, with the emergence of modern neuroimaging tools (positron emission tomography [TEP] and functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI]), it became patent that the frontal cortex was not the only region involved in executive functioning but that these processes in fact depended on a large network of distributed antero-posterior areas. From that moment, researchers were interested to delineate the exact function of the areas associated to various executive processes (updating, shifting, inhibition…), and also to determine the relative importance of anterior and posterior brain areas for executive abilities. Recently, the understanding of areas associated to executive processes as a network of functionally interconnected areas emerged, as well as the influence of the structural aspects (volume and density of grey and white substance) and genetic characteristics. As a whole, results of these researches emphasize the interactive and modulatory aspects of executive functioning at the brain level, and the necessity to take into account simultaneously several levels of analyses. In this review, we will tackle all these questions, by focusing mainly on data obtained in young healthy populations for sake of conciseness.