Adele Diamond


Research Interests

executive functions
prefrontal cortex
working memory
COMT gene
Sex differences
ACEs (adverse childhood experiences)
ELS (early life stress)
social determinants of health
Physical Activity
the arts

Relevant Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters



Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC is the Canada Research Chair Tier I Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, BC, Canada. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, she has been named one of the “2000 Outstanding Women of the 20th Century,” has been listed as one the 15 most influential neuroscientists alive today, and her impact was recently ranked among the top 0.01% of all scientists across all fields. She received her BA from Swarthmore (Phi Beta Kappa), her PhD from Harvard, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale Medical School.

Prof. Diamond co-founded the field of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and continues to be recognized as a world leader in both Psychology and Neuroscience as evidenced by her impact, awards, success in research funding, leadership roles, and abundant invitations to speak across disciplines, professions, and nations. She has held federal research grants continuously for over 40 years (since her graduate school days) and overseen over $24 million in research funding. She has given over 600 keynote addresses and invited talks, including at the White House and to the Dalai Lama as well as in 34 countries across 5 continents. Her work has been cited over 45,000 times and has an h-index of 69. She heads the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Program at UBC, has served on over 25 external advisory boards and 10 editorial boards, including those of all 3 major journals in Developmental Psychology. Her many awards include the Award for Lifetime Contributions to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society from the American Psychological Association, the International Mind, Brain and Education Society’s Translation Award (the highest award that society gives), election to Fellow of the American Psychology Association, Association for Psychological Science, and Society of Experimental Psychologists, as well as honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College and Ben-Gurion University.

Prof. Diamond’s specialty is executive functions, which depend on the brain’s prefrontal cortex and interrelated neural regions. Executive functions enable us to resist temptations and automatic impulsive reactions, stay focused, mentally play with ideas, reason, problem-solve, flexibly adjust to changed demands or priorities, and see things from new and different perspectives. Prof. Diamond’s lab studies how executive functions are affected by biological factors (such as genes and neurochemistry) and by environmental ones (for example, impaired by stress or improved by interventions).

She has demonstrated that executive functions emerge and can be assessed as early as the first year of life, and shown that interventions can improve executive functions even in very young children. Her work has demonstrated ways to help children grasp concepts and succeed at tasks long thought beyond their ability and has changed how people think about cognitive development in emphasizing the importance of inhibiting reactions that get in the way of demonstrating knowledge that is already present.

Her work on the unusual properties of the dopamine system in prefrontal cortex led to her identifying the biological mechanism causing executive function deficits in children treated for phenylketonuria (PKU) and definitively documenting those deficits, resulting in the guidelines for the medical treatment of PKU changing around the globe. Here is an example of how changing behavior (diet) can affect neurochemistry and brain function. Global changes to clinical practice again followed two of her subsequent discoveries. Thus, on three separate occasions her discoveries have led to improvements in the treatment of medical disorders.

More recently, Prof. Diamond has derived new principles for how to improve executive functions and debunked previously-accepted ones. She offers a markedly different perspective from traditional medical practice in holding that treating physical health, without also addressing social and emotional health is less efficient or efficacious. Prof. Diamond also offers a markedly different perspective from mainstream education and has shown that focusing exclusively on training cognitive skills is less efficient, and ultimately less successful, than also addressing social, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. She has shown that many issues are not simply education issues or health issues; they are both.

Prof. Diamond is also known as an exceptional communicator, both in writing and in speaking, making complicated concepts easily understandable across fields and to the lay public. She has been instrumental in bringing researchers and practitioners together across fields and in jump-starting countless collaborations. One of her many humanitarians projects was recently recognition by the establishment of the "Adele Diamond Foundation" in her honor to further efforts to help Maasai children receive a quality education.

Research Methodology

randomized control trials (RCTs)
molecular genetics
neuroimaging (fMRI)
mixed methods (quantitative & qualitative)


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows

In traumatized youth, can prefrontal cortex communication with the amygdala be restored by a stress-reduction program (e.g., Niroga’s yoga-based mindfulness program)? Are the benefits of music for improving executive functions (EFs), mood, and quality of life greater when the experience of listening to the music is socially shared? Can the benefits of listening to the spoken word be as great as those of listening to music for EFs, mood, and quality of life? Modeling gonadal hormone and COMT genotype modulation of the effects of mild stress on EFs pharmacologically with low-dose methylphenidate Will individuals be more emotionally invested in EF training if they have a say in shaping the training activity and will that translate into greater EF benefits?

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.

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