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Executive Functions & Risk for Developmental Psychopathology

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Joel Nigg, Ph.D., Oregon Health and Science University

Executive functioning (EF) emerges in precursive form very early in development, then consolidates gradually throughout childhood and adolescence. Its development both relies on, and provides a crucial context for, the development of numerous other abilities including language, emotion regulation, and learning. Therefore damage to this system early in development can be seen as a primary gateway for multiple forms of psychopathology, including ADHD, conduct disorder, mood and anxiety disorder, and learning disorders. The distinct ways in which EF may contribute to these diverse outcomes via moderation and mediation effects and developmental cascades are considered conceptually here.

Biosketch for Joel Nigg, Ph.D.

Dr. Joel Nigg received his bachelor’s degree at Harvard University and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at University of the California at Berkeley. He served on the faculty at Michigan State for 12 years and is now a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University. His work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1997. He and co-authors have more than 100 peer-reviewed publications; Dr. Nigg authored the book, What Causes ADHD (2006). His most cited work pertains to the theoretical and empirical examination of the role of neuropsychological functioning, including executive functioning, in developmental psychopathology and, in particular, in ADHD. He also conducts work on the personality and temperament interface with neurobiological theories of psychopathology, and on executive functioning and risk for substance use disorders.

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Last Reviewed: 11/30/2012
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