Recent work by Bradley L. Schlaggar and Steven Peterson of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that two independent control centers manage our voluntary, goal-oriented behavior. One is flexible and rapidly adapts to changing feedback. The other can focus in on something and tune out distractions until the task is finished.
This is seen as an example of a class of systems known as complex adaptive systems, common both in nature and even other bodily systems such as temperature control.
Subsequent research now indicates that these two systems begin as one system in children and only differentiate into two independent systems as we mature. This suggests, among other things, why children are unable to resist impulse behaviors that hurt their long-term goals. The longer term network is “clamped” inside the network that rapidly adapts and is only able to fully express itself once it effectively separates out.