Why Tools of the Mind and a Educational Approaches Can Help Executive Function Skills

For more than 30 years, Adele Diamond has been studying the region of the brain devoted to the most complex human abilities. Collectively referred to as \u201cexecutive functions,\u201d these include attention, self-control, and reasoning.

As the Canada Research Chair Professor in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Diamond studies how executive functions can be modified by the environment, modulated by genetics and neurochemistry, and become derailed in certain disorders. She also researches effective interventions, ways to prevent disorders, and educational implications. Her work has helped change medical practice for the treatment of PKU, or phenylketonuria, and for the inattentive type of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She helped found the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience, and her current research is changing our understanding of the dopamine system in the prefrontal cortex and of gender differences in that.

Dr. Diamond has shown that critical executive function skills can be improved in very young children in the classroom without specialists or expensive equipment. Most recently she has turned her attention to the possible roles of play, the arts, dance, storytelling, and physical activity in improving executive functions and academic and mental health outcomes. What nourishes the human spirit, it appears, may also be best for executive functions.

Adele Diamond earned her bachelor\u2019s degree in sociology\u2013anthropology and psychology from Swarthmore College and a doctorate in developmental psychology from Harvard University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale University School of Medicine. In recognition of her research accomplishments she has received numerous awards and honors, including election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She was named one of the \u201c2000 Outstanding Women of the 20th Century.\u201d