Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC

Canada Research Chair Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, University of British Columbia in Vancouver

Adele Diamond is the Canada Research Chair Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and was recently recognized as one the 15 most influential neuroscientists in the world today.

Prof. Diamond is at the forefront of research on ‘executive functions’ and on the brain’s prefrontal cortex on which they depend. 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).

Prof. Diamond has made discoveries that have improved treatment for two different medical disorders and discoveries that have impacted education, improving the lives of millions of children. Her work has shown that executive functions can be improved at any age, even in the very young. Recently she 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 looking for practical ways to help children develop healthy executive functions, and thus help more children thrive, Prof. Diamond takes a markedly different perspective from mainstream education in hypothesizing that focusing exclusively on training cognitive skills is less efficient, and ultimately less successful, than also addressing students’’ social, emotional, and physical needs. She hypothesizes that besides training the skills of interest, it’s important to support those skills by lessening things that impair them (like stress or loneliness) and enhancing things that support them (such as joy and good health).

Adele Diamond was educated at Swarthmore (B.A., Phi Beta Kappa), Harvard (Ph.D.), and Yale Medical School (postdoc). Her many awards include an honorary doctorate (Honoris Causa) from Ben-Gurion University, the Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contributions to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society, named a “Woman of Distinction” by the YWCA, and named one of the “2000 Outstanding Women of the 20th Century.”