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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.

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.

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[up] [home] Adele Diamonds 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. 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 expect to show that focusing exclusively on training cognition might not be the best way to improve cognition; emotional and social factors might be key to whether cognition improves. Traditional activities that have been part of all cultures throughout time (e.g., dance, music-making, play and sports) address all these aspects of a person -- they challenge our EFs (requiring focus, concentration, and working memory), make us happy and proud, provide a sense of belonging, and help our bodies develop.

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