Helping All Children Achieve Their Full Potential
To be successful in life takes flexibility, creativity, self-control and discipline. Central to all of those are ‘executive functions.’
For over 30 years, Dr. Adele Diamond, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, has been studying executive functions and the region of the brain (i.e. prefrontal cortex) on which they rely. Her work integrates behavioural, neuroanatomical and molecular genetic approaches to study how executive functions can be modified by the environment, modulated by genetics and neurochemistry, or become derailed in certain disorders, and effective interventions and ways to prevent disorders.
Her current research is changing our understanding of the prefrontal dopamine system and of gender differences in that, and affecting early education practices about the possibility of intervening early to improve executive functions to head off mental health and academic problems. Her work has shown that executive functions can be improved in very young children by regular teachers in normal classrooms without expensive equipment.
Most recently, Diamond is turning 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 may also be best for executive functions.