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Interdisciplinary Studies

TEDx West Vancouver

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Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field devoted to understanding how children’s minds change as they grow up, interrelations between that and how the brain is changing, and environmental and biological influences on that.

Our lab specializes in studying a region of the brain known as prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the cognitive abilities that depend on it, especially in young children.

Those abilities are often called executive functions and consist of cognitive control functions such as cognitive flexibility, inhibition (attentional control, self-control), working memory, reasoning, and problem-solving.

We organize a biennial conference to help children by bringing research findings to parents, teachers, doctors, and others. Attendees LOVE it!
click here for info
on the last conference:
July 24-28, 2013, Vancouver

The Importance of Early Childhood Education Active, Hands-on Learning is more Effective
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click here to see more videos
We study ……  
  their development
  genetic influences on them
  environmental influences on them
& their neural bases
(neuroanatomical and
  neurochemical).  
click on Alan Alda's picture
click on the Dalai Lama's picture

To study their development, we have developed neurocognitive
       games that can be used even with infants, & where the same            measures can be used with preschoolers through octogenarians

To study their neural bases and modulation by genes and neurochemistry,
we use functional neuroimaging (fMRI) & molecular genetic techniques

To study their modulation by the environment,
we look at detrimental factors such as poverty or
stress , and
we look at facilitative factors such as bilingualism, school programs, and hope to soon start looking at dance and storytelling.

 


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Want to optimize executive functions and academic outcomes? Simple, just nourish the human spirit.
Diamond, A. (2014). Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology, 37, 205-232

Executive functions (EFs; which make possible mentally playing with ideas, giving the considered rather than impulsive response, resisting temptations, staying focused, problem-solving, and creatively meeting unanticipated challenges) suffer if we are sad, stressed, lonely, or not physically fit. Since EFs are critical for academic achievement, if we want students to excel we need to take seriously the fundamental interrelatedness of the different aspects of a person. If emotional, social, or physical needs are ignored, those unmet needs will work against academic excellence. The arts and physical activity can challenge EFs (e.g., by requiring focused attention and discipline) and thus improve them, and they can support EFs (and hence optimal school performance) by bringing joy and pride, building community, and whipping the body into shape. Thus promoting the arts and physical activity may be vital for improving academic outcomes. Schools can improve academic outcomes by increasing the joy and well-being of their teachers and students.
   
                                                                                              

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  Our 2011 Science paper (Diamond & Lee 2011) reported that surprisingly diverse approaches (including yoga and traditional martial arts) apparently can improve children’s EFs & PFC function. Detailed information appears in the Tables in Supplemental Online Materials.
see also:
Diamond, A. (2012). Activities and programs that improve children’s executive functions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 335-341.(pdf)
Selected to appear in Psychology Progress (Dec. 9) (which alerts the scientific community to breaking journal articles considered to represent the best in Psychology research)
   
                                                                                               


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for pdf

 

The Evidence Base for Improving School Outcomes
by Addressing the Whole Child and by Addressing Skills
and Attitudes, Not Just Content

by Adele Diamond

in Early Education and Development, 2010

If we want the best academic outcomes, the most efficient and cost-effective route to achieve that is, counterintuitively, not to narrowly focus on academics, but to also address children's social, emotional, and physical development. Similarly, the best and most efficient route to physical health is through also addressing emotional, social, and cognitive wellness. Emotional wellness, similarly, depends critically on social, cognitive, and physical wellness.

   
                                                                                              


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  One line of our work has led to worldwide changes in the medical guidelines for the treatment of a genetic disorder (PKU) that improved many children’s lives.
see:
www.apa.org/research/action/pku.aspx
   
                                                                                              

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  We have recently documented marked advances in executive functions due to an early childhood school curriculum (Tools of the Mind) that requires no specialists or expensive equipment, just regular teachers in regular classrooms. The children who spent more time in social pretend play outperformed their peers who received more direct academic instruction. We are now following this up in a longitudinal study.
see also: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/magazine/27tools-t.html
see also: httpp://www.devcogneuro.com/images/Pubs/
National_Scientific_Council_on_the_Developing_Child2009.pdf
   
                                                                                               

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  In 2005, we argued that ADHD without hyperactivity differs in its genetic and neural basis, cognitive profile, and responses to medication from ADHD that includes hyperactivity. This has resonated deeply with clinicians and patients.
   
                                                                                               

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  In 2004, we reported evidence of the relation between a genetic polymorphism and EF performance in children that challenged accepted notions of the role of dopamine in prefrontal cortex.
   
                                                                                               


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  In 2002, we showed we could halve the age at which infants can demonstrate the ability to deduce abstract rules. Our pilot work indicates that this also works with children with autism. The implication is that children with autism may be able to grasp abstract concepts long thought beyond their ability; the information just needs to be presented to them in a way they can understand.
see: http://www.devcogneuro.com/Publications/TICS-2006.pdf
                                                                                                   


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  Our earlier work demonstrated one of the first strong empirical links between early cognitive development and brain function, and was instrumental in beginning the field of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.
see:
http://www.devcogneuro.com/images/table.jpg

for photos, click here
for info on the meeting above, click here
for info on educating the heart, click here
for info on the Dalai Lama Centre for Peace & Education, click here
 
 

American Public Media's
program On Being
with host, Krista Tippett
Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education
"What neuroscientist Adele Diamond is learning about the brain is turning some of our most modern ideas about education on their heads. Her work is scientifically illustrating the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization and reflection. What nourishes the human spirit, the whole person, it turns out, also hones our minds.

My thinking about the education I received, about school testing, and about what I want for my children will never be the same after the conversation I had with neuroscientist Adele Diamond."

For Blog, click here

for info on the program, click here
to listen to a re-airing of the interview, click here