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Recently we have turned our attention to the possible roles of music, dance, storytelling, traditional martial arts, positive sports, yoga, mindfulness, and even circus for improving executive functions, academic outcomes and mental and physical health.
[up] [home] Adele Diamonds work opened up a new field of inquiry, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, which marked a milestone in the integration of developmental psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience.
(which changed international guidelines for the age of treatment onset).
After demonstrating that maturation of PFC played a role in early cognitive development, a natural next question was, Whats changing in PFC to make these cognitive advances possible?
Developmental psychologists called it A-not-B and used it to study cognitive development in infants; neuroscientists called it delayed response and used it to study the functions of prefrontal cortex (PFC) in monkeys.
Building on that insight, she undertook a systematic program of research to chart the developmental progression of human infants on A-not-B and delayed response plus a transparent barrier task (to obtain converging evidence from a very different paradigm), the developmental progression of infant monkeys on the 3 tasks, the effect of lesions on adult monkeys' performance of those tasks, and the effect of lesions on infant monkeys' performance of the tasks (see Table below). It also fundamentally altered the scientific understanding of PFC early in development; clearly it was not silent as accepted wisdom had held. A model system for studying the role of dopamine in prefrontal cortex during early development in humans.
Yet sadness, stress, loneliness, or poor health causes ones EF performance to be worse and works against efforts to improve EFs or academic outcomes.
Conversely, EFs are better when one feels emotionally and socially nourished and healthy. Inability of 5-month-old infants to retrieve a contiguous object: A failure of conceptual understanding or of control of action? PMID10836557 (Special issue: New directions for Child Development in the 21st Century).
Her work has shown that executive functions can be improved even in the very young. These abilities are crucial for problem-solving, creativity, and reasoning, and for success in all life's aspects. In 2017, she gave 26 invited addresses, including in Australia, Israel, Italy, Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, and throughout North America. One of those relates to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We predict, and are testing, that physicians prescribing the correct dose of psychostimulants for controlling hyperactivity in patients with ADHD are prescribing too high a dose for patients cognitive problems. Social and/or emotional aspects of, or adjuncts to, a program to improve cognitive skills might be key to whether and/or how much that program succeeds. We hope our research might fundamentally change the approach and underlying assumptions (i.e., shift the paradigm) of how to improve cognitive skills and how to educate children.