top of page
YRV Home
Journal Home
Button 1
Button 2


Executive function: A secret pathway to enter the future of adolescent brain cognitive development (ABCD)

Joyce Y. Coffey    , Yingzi Han


with APM Burundi
Issa Ibrahim, Délicia Binja, Kwizera Édouard, Exaucé Ashuza Mayele, Joyce Mushagalusa

To cite: Coffey J. Y., & Han. Y. (2022). Executive function: A secret pathway to enter the future of adolescent brain cognitive development. 
International Journal of Youth-Led Research, 2(1).

Received September 15, 2022
Accepted November 1, 2022


This is a youth-centered review study. Youth researchers were a vital part of active learning and decision making.


This big-picture review study sets its focus uniquely on the designs and aims of a decade of relevant research. Departing from the findings-oriented approach of typical systematic literature reviews, this study models a novel method for youth researchers who look to expand their horizons beyond their familiar fields.


Drawing attention to the urgent need for research that advances adolescent brain executive function, this study brings to light the developmental significance of youth leadership.


Objectives  In this systematic literature review, we aim to investigate the research designs of studies on adolescent brain executive function (EF) over the past decade to deduce a potential approach for future studies.

Methods  We performed literature searches on PubMed, Science Direct, and Google Scholar including studies that investigate adolescent brain development, specifically empirical studies between the years of 2012 and 2022 on adolescent EF using neuroimaging techniques. We then set up inclusion and exclusion criteria and performed study selection, data extraction, and data analysis.

Results  Our findings illustrated that while there was a remarkable rise in adolescent EF studies over the past decade, there were few interventional studies that aimed at advancing the neural developmental opportunities of the adolescent years.

Conclusion  These findings suggest that in order to define best practices for advancing adolescent EF, developmental cognitive neuroscience and the field of education need to form a stronger partnership to design more creative and appropriate interventions.

Keywords  adolescence, executive function, developmental cognitive neuroscience, education, partnership, neuroimaging



© Author(s) 2022. Re-use permitted under CC By-NC. 

No commercial re-use. 

See rights and permissions. Published by IJYLR.

Youth Research Vox, 

Los Angeles, CA, U.S.

Correspondence to
Joyce Y. Coffey

The adolescent brain, once seen as a burden, is now being recognized as an asset for its flexibility and neuropotential (Abrams, 2022). This change of perspective and the establishment of the interdisciplinary field – developmental cognitive neuroscience – led to a sharp increase in adolescent brain research in the past decade. While a large number of these studies investigated topics that are general to various age groups, some are focused on brain functional and structural changes that are unique to adolescence. Of course, neither the establishment of developmental cognitive neuroscience nor the change in perspective on the adolescent brain would have been possible without the innovations and rapid updates of neuroimaging techniques in the past few decades (Insel, 2011; Vistoli et al., 2015). For example, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as an exceptionally useful tool for assessing brain function has already made a great impact on cognitive neuroscience (Ryan & Alexander, 2007).

Characterized by the rapid development of executive function, the adolescent brain is malleable, flexible, and full of possibilities (Crone, 2009; Abrams, 2022). Executive function, an array of brain processes subserved by the prefrontal cortex and related subcortical structures, is necessary for the conscious management of thought, emotion, and action (Powell & Voeller, 2004). After examining a multitude of literature on adolescent executive function, we ask the following research question: 

To what extent have ABCD research designs over the past decade advanced neural developmental opportunities for adolescent executive function?

Coffey & Han, JYLR Open 2022.

bottom of page