Neuropsychol Rev. 2023 Jan 12. doi: 10.1007/s11065-022-09574-z. Online ahead of print.
Executive Functions are a set of interrelated, top-down processes essential for adaptive goal-directed behaviour, frequently impaired across different neurodevelopmental disorders with variable degrees of severity. Many executive-function-training studies in children with neurodevelopmental disorders have focused on near effects, investigating post-treatment improvements on directly trained processes, while enhancements of skills not directly trained, defined as far effects, are less considered, albeit these could be extremely relevant for reducing the negative impact of a disorder’s core symptomatology. This systematic review and metanalysis aims to investigate the far effect outcomes after EF training in children with different types of neurodevelopmental disorders. 17 studies met the inclusion criteria for the systematic review, while 15 studies were selected in the metanalysis. An overall statistically significant effect size was found in the majority of far effect outcome measures considered in the studies. In particular, trainings on executive functions determine significant far effects on daily life functioning (0.46, 95% CI: [0.05-0.87]) and clinical symptoms (0.33, 95% CI: [0.15-0.51]). Despite a high variability of the results, intensity, frequency and the laboratory/life contexts dimension seem to be the most influential variables in determining far effects. This systematic review and metanalysis highlights the need to measure far effects of executive function training in neurodevelopmental disorders, selecting treatments not only on directly targeted processes, but also according to far impacts on the functional weakness of the disorder.