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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02472

Enhancing Executive Functions through Social Interactions: Causal Evidence Using a Cross-Species Model

  • 1Department of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, United States
  • 2Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, School of Medicine, New York University, United States
  • 3Emotional Brain Institute, Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, United States

It has long been theorized that humans develop higher mental functions, such as executive functions (EFs), within the context of interpersonal interactions and social relationships. Various components of social interactions, such as interpersonal communication, perspective taking, and conforming/adhering to social rules, may create important (and perhaps even necessary) opportunities for the acquisition and continued practice of EF skills. Furthermore, positive and stable relationships facilitate the development and maintenance of EFs across the lifespan. However, experimental studies investigating the extent to which social experiences contribute causally to the development of EFs are lacking. Here we present experimental evidence that social experiences and the acquisition of social skills influence the development of EFs. Specifically, using a rat model, we demonstrate that following exposure to early-life adversity, a socialization intervention causally improves working memory in peri-adolescence. Our findings combined with the broader literature promote the importance of cultivating social skills in support of EF development and maintenance across the lifespan. Additionally, cross-species research will provide insight into causal mechanisms by which social experiences influence cognitive development and contribute to the development of biologically-sensitive interventions.

Keywords: executive functions (EF), Social Behavior, social competence, early-life adversity, Poverty, development, Longitudinal, Peer effects

Received: 24 Jun 2019; Accepted: 21 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Perry, Braren, Rincón Cortés, Brandes-Aitken, Chopra, Sullivan and Blair. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Dr. Rosemarie E. Perry, Department of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, New York City, NY 10003, Georgia, United States, rosemarie.perry@nyu.edu
Dr. Clancy Blair, Department of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, New York City, NY 10003, Georgia, United States, clancy.blair@nyu.edu