A Naturalistic Intervention to Promote Executive Functions in Primary School Children: A Pilot Study

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Brain Sciences
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Souza J.B.
Trevisan B.T.
Nunes L.G.
Machado W.L.
Seabra A.G.
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© 2024 by the authors.Executive functions are related to the control of cognition, emotion, and behavior. They are essential to lifelong outcomes, including school performance. Naturalistic interventions embedded in children’s daily activities and environments have greater effects. Therefore, this pilot study aimed to develop a naturalistic program suitable for schools, based on Goal Management Training (GMT), and to analyze its effects on executive functions and behavior. The participants consisted of 35 students from 2nd to 5th grade with executive dysfunction complaints. They underwent neuropsychological assessments of working memory, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and intellectual capacity. Teachers and parents answered questionnaires on executive functions and behavior. Students were randomly assigned to an active control group, who participated in sessions on citizenship, and an experimental group (EG), stimulated through the executive function program, both with 16 sessions conducted by psychologists. After the intervention, all participants were reevaluated. The two-way Wald-type statistic (WTS) revealed greater improvement in executive functions for the EG, including working memory and inhibition. Additionally, parents and teachers, blind to the experimental conditions, reported improvements in some measures of executive functions and behavior. The results are encouraging, but further studies should test the intervention when implemented with larger samples and by teachers.
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