Executive Attention and Effortful Control: Linking Temperament, Brain Networks, and Genes


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concerning this article should be addressed to Mary K. Rothbart, Department of Psychology, 1227 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403; e-mail: maryroth@uoregon.edu.


ABSTRACT—Young children’s increasing ability to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behavior is a hallmark of development that is of critical importance to their socialization. Recent advances in neuroimaging and molecular genetics hold promise for drawing together different levels of analysis of the emergence and growth of self-regulation. In this article, we review research relevant to our approach to understanding self-regulation, beginning with an examination of the temperament construct of Effortful Control (EC). We trace the development of EC and its links to an anatomically defined attentional network and identify genes that may contribute to individual differences in the efficiency of this network. We also report on how intervention may influence a central component of self-regulation, the executive attention network. Although much more work remains to be done, we believe that the importance of the questions addressed and the recent progress in understanding self-regulation make this a very exciting area of research.