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Diamond hypothesized that at least part of the answer was increasing levels of dopamine in PFC. Researchers and clinicians working on inborn errors of metabolism had noticed that children well-treated for phenylketonuria (PKU) seemed to show selective EF deficits, but no one could imagine a mechanism that could explain that, so reports of such deficits were largely ignored. Normal development of prefrontal cortex from birth to young adulthood: Cognitive functions, anatomy, and biochemistry. But how to study the role of dopamine in modulating PFC cognitive functions (executive functions [EFs]) in humans early in life? Neuropharmacologists studying the mesocortical dopamine system in rats had shown that if there is only a modest reduction in the dopamine precursor, tyrosine, PFC is selectively affected. Conditions under which young children CAN hold two rules in mind and inhibit a prepotent response. doi:10.1037//0012-1649.38.3.352 PMID:12005379 (abstract) (pdf) Diamond, A. Developmental psychologists and neuroscientists used to know little of one anothers work. A model system for studying the role of dopamine in prefrontal cortex during early development in humans.

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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). Her many awards include an honorary doctorate () 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. Diamonds lab integrates developmental, cognitive science, neuroscience, and molecular genetic methods to study prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the most complex cognitive abilities ('executive functions' [EFs]) that rely on PFC and interrelated brain regions. 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. Social and/or emotional aspects of, or adjuncts to, a program to improve cognitive skills might be key to whether and/or how much that program succeeds. We hope our research might fundamentally change the approach and underlying assumptions (i.e., shift the paradigm) of how to improve cognitive skills and how to educate children. (which changed international guidelines for the age of treatment onset). After demonstrating that maturation of PFC played a role in early cognitive development, a natural next question was, Whats changing in PFC to make these cognitive advances possible?

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