Neurobiological Bases of Executive Function and Social-Emotional Development: Typical and Atypical Brain Changes

Christina Barrasso-Catanzaro, Paul J. Eslinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Neuroscience research has uncovered dynamic brain changes during typical and atypical development. Although these neurobiological processes have been recognized in behaviors such as reading and learning, they are applicable as well to children's self-regulation, decision making, and sociomoral behavior. In this article the authors focus on brain systems mediating these complex aspects of human development and highlight the key role of the prefrontal cortex. This region is unique in size, anatomy, and physiology in humans and requires multiple decades to mature. It is sensitive to social influences and underlies much of our social cognition and emotions, shared cultural values, and goal-oriented approach to life. Influences on executive and sociomoral processes include early parental nurturing, socioeconomic adversity, social modeling, and schooling. When prefrontal cortex and related systems are disrupted because of injury, stress, or disease, executive and sociomoral difficulties can surface and be challenging to remediate, although researchers continue to examine treatment options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-119
Number of pages12
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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