Young Minds & Brain Fitness


Executive function is a key predictor of academic
and life-long success

Neuroscience breakthroughs have forwarded a wide range of innovative research-to-practice applications to optimize executive cognitive functions essential for learning and success in life. Advances in the understanding of neuroplasticity offer an unprecedented opportunity to profoundly impact students’ academic and social-emotional outcomes through evidence-based brain interventions; and leveraging this new understanding has never been more essential.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as abuse and neglect, and socioeconomic circumstances including poverty, affect nearly half of all U.S. children and have a significant impact on the achievement gap. Simultaneously, stress and depression are sharply rising among students, and research has demonstrated their negative impact on learning. Brain fitness interventions help address neurological deficits resulting from ACEs, improve underlying cognitive functions, ready the brain for learning, and give children the best chance of taking advantage of educational opportunities, all while promoting life-long mental health and well-being.

BrainFutures has launched a nationwide effort to improve student outcomes through the implementation of executive function (EF) programs in schools. EF skills undergird learning so subject content can be retained. Decades of research show that executive functioning is a more powerful predictor than IQ of school readiness and academic achievement, and predicts positive life outcomes. EF skills are also foundational to social and emotional competencies, promoting traits associated with inner resilience, such as optimism, gratitude, social and self-awareness, and goal perseverance. Our work is focused on clear ROIs for all students—gains in executive functioning and self-regulation skills, better mental health, as well as improved academic and life outcomes. Our goals are to identify for the benefit of educational decision-makers interventions shown through rigorous scientific studies to increase executive function, and to provide specific recommendations appropriate to the needs of different schools.

Students deserve optimal brains—a critical step in leveling the playing field for lifelong success. Brains are malleable, and with the right interventions, effects of ACEs on the brain can be mitigated, the achievement gap can be interrupted, and all students can experience superior cognitive and emotional functioning. Research shows that addressing the impact of ACEs (and investing in healthier brains) is associate with higher graduation rates, advanced learning, increased lifelong earnings, better health and relationships, lower costs of social supports, and lower incarceration risks. We wholeheartedly support this vision for our nation’s future.