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Developmental psychologists and neuroscientists used to know little of one anothers work.
As a graduate student, Diamond realized that for 50 years developmental psychologists and neuroscientists had been using essentially the same behavioral task without knowing it.
We offer 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 youths emotional, social, and physical needs. Inability of 5-month-old infants to retrieve a contiguous object: A failure of conceptual understanding or of control of action? PMID10836557 (Special issue: New directions for Child Development in the 21st Century).
Our hypothesis is that besides training the skill(s) of interest, its important to support those skills by lessening things that impair them and enhancing things that support them.
Diamonds team studied children and animal models, combining neurochemical and behavioral work in animals --creating the first animal model of treated PKU along the way -- with longitudinal testing of an extensive battery of neurocognitive tasks in infants and children. Diamonds team had found converging evidence from two very different domains, vision and cognition, in support of her hypothesis about the mechanism causing cognitive deficits in PKU children when their Phe levels were maintained at what had been thought to be safe levels (3-5 times normal; 360-600 μmol/L). PFC cognitive deficits were closely related to childrens levels of Phe. The deficit in contrast sensitivity was closely related to what the childrens Phe levels had been during the first month of life. Not quite as grown-up as we like to think: Parallels between cognition in childhood and adulthood. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01530.x NIHMS:16818 (abstract) (pdf) Rennie, D., Bull, R.
Physicians decide on the optimal psychostimulant dose for a child with ADHD by asking the childs parent how the child is doing on different doses. Human brain development: Perception, attention, and memory. (abstract) (pdf) Zagreda, L., Goodman, J., Druin, D.
The parent bases his/her answer on the childs behavior. Another goal of the lab is to find practical ways to help children develop healthy EFs, and thus to help more children thrive.
Yet sadness, stress, loneliness, or poor health causes ones EF performance to be worse and works against efforts to improve EFs or academic outcomes.
Conversely, EFs are better when one feels emotionally and socially nourished and healthy.