We spoke with ECI network member Adele Diamond during CEHD's recent Conference on Measuring and Assessing Skills about her research on executive functions and the prefrontal cortex. Executive functions are things like self control, selective attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility, problem solving, planning, and reasoning.
"I look at what biological things affect them, like hormones or neurochemistry, and what environmental things affect them, like poverty or interventions," Diamond says. "What I'm concerned about is how to help kids thrive. One of the ways is to help them have healthy executive functions."
She also discussed her more recent work exploring the benefits that music and dance can have on executive functions, which combines her interest in dance and cognitive neuroscience. Diamond and her team are also looking closer at some things that have long been assumed to be beneficial, but that have little evidence behind them.
"People have focused too much on just narrowly training cognition or improving aerobics to improve cognition," she says. "Instead of thinking about the incredible power that the emotions have, whether you're emotionally invested, whether you're motivated, whether you're enjoying the activity. And we think that's key to their benefits."
Her lab is also exploring ways to make education benefits last longer. "Nobody has looked at what would help them last longer," she says.
Diamond is the Canada Research Chair Tier 1 Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia.