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Adele Diamond is the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia (UBC), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC), and was recently listed as one of the 15 most influential neuroscientists.[1] One of the pioneers in the field of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Adele Diamond is at the forefront of research on the executive functions which depend on prefrontal cortex (PFC) and interrelated brain regions. Executive functions include 'thinking outside the box' (cognitive flexibility), mentally relating ideas and facts (working memory), and giving considered responses rather than impulsive ones, resisting temptations and staying focused (inhibitory control, including selective attention). These abilities are critical for creative and flexible problem-solving, meeting unanticipated challenges, self-control, reasoning, the discipline to persevere, and success in all life's aspects.[2]

Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC
Adele Diamond.jpg
Alma materSwarthmore College, Harvard University, Yale University
Spouse(s)Donald Druin
Childrenstep-children Paul, Xela (Shala), & Erik
AwardsAwarded an honorary degree from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel [2015]

listed as one of the 15 most influential neuroscientists[1] [2014]

Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contributions to Psychology in the Service of Science & Society from the Am. Psychology Assoc. [2014]

Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada [2009]

Tier 1 Canada Research Chair [2004, renewed 2011]
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of British Columbia

Dr. Diamond studies how executive functions are affected by biological factors (e.g., genes and neurochemistry)[3][4] and by environmental ones (e.g., impaired by stress or improved by interventions)[5][6] especially in children. Her discoveries have improved treatment for medical disorders (PKU][7][8] and ADHD[9] and impacted early education. Recently, Adele Diamond has turned her attention to the possible roles of traditional activities, such as music and dance, in improving executive functions, academic outcomes, and mental health. In dozens of recent talks (including a TEDx talk)[10] and on the NPR show, On Being with Krista Tippett,[11] Dr. Diamond points out there is a reason dance, play, storytelling, art, and music have been part of human life for tens of thousands of years and are found ubiquitously in every culture; that perhaps we have discarded the wisdoms of past generations too lightly.


Early life and educationEdit

Adele's father, Jerome Diamond, was born in 1903 in the Catskills of New York. His was the first Jewish family in Monticello, NY. In the early years they were met with signs everywhere that said, "No jews and dogs allowed." He attended a one-room schoolhouse and left school to help in the family grocery business. He died as Adele was entering her senior year in high school. Adele's mother, Mildred Golden, weighed 2 pounds when she was born in 1916 in New York City. She was placed in a small egg box, put in the oven (to keep her warm), and fed with an eye dropper. She attended Tilden High School in Brooklyn and would have attended college if not for the Great Depression, but instead became the bookkeeper for the family business, "Golden Pickle Works." She died in 1997.

Adele Diamond grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and attended public schools.[12] She graduated from John Bowne High School as Valedictorian.[12]

She attended Swarthmore College on a 4-year Swarthmore National Scholarship and graduated in 1975, majoring in Sociology-Anthropology and Psychology.[12][13] She was a member of the Varsity Volleyball and Archery teams all 4 years. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with the highest honor in the course program of study.[12] While still at Swarthmore, in 1972, she attended the London School of Economics, studying the philosophy of science with Imre Lakatos, an important Popperian philosopher.[12]

Adele Diamond did her PhD graduate work at Harvard University (graduating in 1983), with a 4-year NSF Graduate Fellowship for those thought to have outstanding research promise and a 3-year Danforth Graduate Fellowship for those committed to university teaching.[13]

Although officially a PhD candidate in Psychology, she spent her first 4 years of graduate school working primarily in Anthropology (under John and Bea Whiting and Bob LeVine) and Sociology (under Christopher Jencks).[13] At that time, Harvard had an NIMH-funded Pre-doctoral Training Program in Cross-Cultural Psychological Research and the program awarded Adele 3 years of funding for her dissertation: one year to prepare to go into the field, one year to go anywhere in the world to do the research (she chose the South Pacific because it seemed the most idyllic), and one year to write up the results.[13] People were very enthusiastic about her thesis topic: 'Is the need to be master of your fate intrinsically human or a product of Western culture?'[13] However, she didn't think she was coming up with a good way to study it and that the famous people advising her were not either.[13] They seemed not to be concerned.,[13] saying, "Don't worry. You do great work." Not wanting to go and do poor science, Adele returned the money for Years 2 and 3.[13]

Having given up her initial thesis topic, she returned to a question that Jerome Kagan had posed very excitedly in Adele's first year in graduate school: "If infants all over the world show the same cognitive changes at roughly the same time, those changes cannot be due entirely to learning or experience, because their experiences are too diverse; there must be a maturational component; what might that maturational component be?" [13] To answer that question, Adele had to turn to neuroscience.[13] She turned to neuroscience not because of an intrinsic interest in it per se; rather her motivation was to answer a particular question that required a neuroscientific approach.[13]

The maturational component would clearly be in the brain and Adele hypothesized that maturational changes in the brain's PFC made possible the impressive cognitive advances seen between 6–12 months of age.[13] At that time no one was studying the PFC or any topic in cognitive neuroscience in the Harvard Psychology Department.[13] Adele learned from books on her own and was granted permission to add Nelson Butters from the Boston VA (who had published widely on the anatomy and functions of prefrontal cortex) to her thesis committee.[13]

To get hard evidence on the brain to support her hypothesis, Adele went to Yale University School of Medicine to work with Patricia Goldman-Rakic.[12] That work was supported by Sloan and NIMH Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards.[12]

Research in the 1980sEdit

In the 1980s, Adele Diamond's 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.

Research in the 1990sEdit

In the 1990s, Adele Diamond's team made two discoveries that led to worldwide improvements in the medical treatment for phenylketonuria (PKU), improving the lives of thousands of children. Prof. Diamond identified the biological mechanism causing EF deficits in children treated for PKU. She provided the first demonstration of a visual deficit in treated PKU children (which changed international guidelines for the age of treatment onset and that markedly improved children's lives.)

Diamond's team went on to discover a long-lasting visual deficit if children with PKU are not started on diet within days of birth (the norm had been to start them within 2 weeks of birth).

Research in the 2000sEdit

Her 2005 paper on the fundamental neurobiological and clinical differences between the inattentive-type ADHD and those ADHD types in which hyperactivity is present resonated deeply with patients and clinicians. Many patients felt heard and understood for the first time. The number of websites devoted to ADHD of the inattentive type increased from four before her 2005 paper to several thousand by 2009.

In her work with the early childhood school curriculum, Tools of the Mind, she obtained findings with direct and important implications for education showing that it improves children's EFs and that the better children's EFs the better their performance on standardized measures of academic performance. This was the first study to demonstrate that EFs can be improved even in very young children in regular public-school classes by regular teachers. It was the first to demonstrate that EFs would be improved in young children without computerized training – indeed she found far stronger results than have any computerized training studies with young children. It was responsible for an explosion of interest both by funders and researchers in the possibility of intervening early to improve EFs to head off mental health problems and school failure and to give children a better chance in life.

Recent researchEdit

Her recent research on the Tools of the Mind curriculum, including a paper in the journal, Science, is affecting education practices around the world. This research demonstrates:

  • executive functions can be improved in regular classrooms by regular teachers without expensive high-tech equipment.
  • play is an important part of improving executive functions and school achievement, rather than play taking time away from the important task of improving academic achievement.
  • executive functions can be improved very early (in children only 4–5 years of age) - critical in heading off problems before they develop.

Much of her work has started with a "YES, YOU CAN" premise: even though a child may appear incapable of doing or understanding something, if we pose the question differently or teach the concept in new ways, the child can succeed. Diamond illustrated this approach first with infants' understanding of the concept of contiguity (Diamond & Gilbert, 1989; Diamond & Lee, 2000), then with their ability to grasp abstract concepts (Diamond et al., 1999; Diamond et al., 2003; Diamond, 2006), and next with children's ability to succeed on a Stroop-like task requiring memory and inhibition (Diamond et al., 2002),

Conference organizerEdit

She has organized and hosted a large international conference (about 700 attendees) in the summers of 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2013. The purpose was to educate the non-scientist about important evidence based scientific findings in neuroscience, child development, and mental health. Called the "Brain Development and Learning" conference, her series successfully communicated these findings in ways that parents, doctors, teachers, social workers, and others all can understand and make use of in their communities. These were not your typical scientific conferences, where scientists talk to scientists.

Honors and publicationsEdit

Awards and honorsEdit

In 2015, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev conferred an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Philosophy Honoris Causa) on Adele.[14] For more than a decade now, she has held a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair. She was listed in the fall of 2014 as number 13 (and the only woman in the top 23) in a list of the 30 most influential neuroscientists alive today. A few months earlier, she received the Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contributions to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society from the American Psychological Association. The Bronfenbrenner Award is given to an individual whose work has, over a lifetime career, contributed not only to the science of developmental psychology, but who has also worked to apply developmental psychology to society. In 2009, Diamond was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Earlier in the same year, she received the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (recognized in Canada as an important award for women.) In 2000, she received the 21st Century Award for Achievement, and, named one of the "2000 Outstanding Women of the 20th Century,." In 1999, she was listed in "Who's Who in America" and "Who's Who in the World" She is regularly invited as a keynote speaker to many conferences, workshops and technical meetings every year.

Selected publicationsEdit

Diamond has authored or co-authored about a hundred papers on her research work. What follows are some of her selected publications:

Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Oberle, E., Diamond, A., Lawlor, M. S., Abbott, D., Thompson, K., & Oberlander, T.F. (2015). Enhancing cognitive and social – emotional development through a simple-to-administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Psychology, 51, 52-66. (Special Section on Mindfulness and Compassion in Human Development)

Diamond, A. (2013). Executive Functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135-168.

Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4–12 years old. Science, 333, 959-964.

Diamond, A., Barnett, W.S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007). Preschool program improves cognitive control, Science, 318, 1387-1388.

Davidson, M.C., Amso, D., Anderson, L.C., & Diamond, A. (2006). Development of cognitive control and executive functions from 4–13 years: Evidence from manipulations of memory, inhibition, and task switching. Neuropsychologia, 44, 2037 - 2078.

Diamond, A. (2005). ADD (ADHD without hyperactivity), a neurobiologically and behaviorally distinct disorder from ADHD (with hyperactivity). Development and Psychopathology, 17, 807-825.

Diamond, A., Prevor, M., Callender, G., & Druin, D.P. (1997). Prefrontal cortex cognitive deficits in children treated early and continuously for PKU. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development (Monograph #252), 62 (4), 1-207.

Diamond, A. & Herzberg, C. (1996). Impaired sensitivity to visual contrast in children treated early and continuously for PKU. Brain, 119, 523-538.

Personal lifeEdit

She is married to Donald Druin and has three step-children: Paul, Xela (Shala), & Erik.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Kelsey, Fox (2014). "30 Most Influential Neuroscientists Alive Today".
  2. ^ Diamond, A. (2013). "Executive Functions". Annual Review of Psychology. 64: 135–168. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750. PMC 4084861. PMID 23020641.
  3. ^ Diamond, A. (2011). "Biological and social influences on cognitive control processes dependent on prefrontal cortex". Progress in Brain Research. 189: 319–339. doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-53884-0.00032-4. PMC 4103914.
  4. ^ Diamond, A. (2007). "Biological and social influences on cognitive control processes dependent on prefrontal cortex". Cerebral Cortex. 17: 161–170. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhm082. PMC 2238775.
  5. ^ Diamond, A. & Lee, K. (2011). "Interventions shown to Aid Executive Function Development in Children 4-12 Years Old". Science. 333: 959–964. doi:10.1126/science.1204529. PMC 3159917.
  6. ^ Diamond, A. & Ling, D. (in press). "Fundamental questions surrounding efforts to improve executive functions (including working memory)". In Bunting, M.; Novick, J.; Dougherty, M. & Engle, R.W. (eds.). An integrative approach to cognitive and working memory training: Perspectives from psychology, neuroscience, and human development. Oxford University Press.
  7. ^ Diamond, A. & Prevor, M. (1997). Prefrontal cortex cognitive deficits in children treated early and continuously for PKU. 62. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development (Monograph #252). pp. 1–207.
  8. ^ Diamond, A. (2001). "A model system for studying the role of dopamine in prefrontal cortex during early development in humans". In Nelson, C. & Luciana, M. (eds.). Handbook of developmental cognitive neuroscience. MIT Press. pp. 433–472.
  9. ^ Diamond, A. (2005). "ADD (ADHD without hyperactivity), a neurobiologically and behaviorally distinct disorder from ADHD (with hyperactivity)". Development and Psychopathology. 17 (3): 807–825. doi:10.1017/S0954579405050388. PMC 1474811. PMID 16262993.
  10. ^ "Turning some ideas on their head - Adele Diamond - TEDxWestVancouverED". 2014-09-27.
  11. ^ On Being with Krista Tippett (2010-10-24). "Adele Diamond — The Science of Attention".
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Diamond, A. "The publicly posted curriculum vitae of Adele Diamond".
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Diamond, A. (2012). "How I came full circle from the social end of psychology, to neuroscience, and back again, in an effort to understand the development of cognitive control" (PDF). In Subotnik, R. F.; Robinson, A.; Callahan, C. M. & Gubbins, E. J. (eds.). Malleable Minds: Translating Insights from Psychology and Neuroscience to Gifted Education. Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, U. of Conn. pp. 55–84.
  14. ^ "BGU to Recognize Outstanding Scientists and Supporters with Honorary Doctorates". 2015.

External linksEdit