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Activities and Programs That Improve Children’s Executive Functions


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Executive functions (EFs; e.g., reasoning, working memory, and self-control) can be improved. Good news indeed, since EFs are critical for school and job success and for mental and physical health. Various activities appear to improve children’s EFs. The best evidence exists for computer-based training, traditional martial arts, and two school curricula. Weaker evidence, though strong enough to pass peer review, exists for aerobics, yoga, mindfulness, and other school curricula. Here I address what can be learned from the research thus far, including that EFs need to be progressively challenged as children improve and that repeated practice is key. Children devote time and effort to activities they love; therefore, EF interventions might use children’s motivation to advantage. Focusing narrowly on EFs or aerobic activity alone appears not to be as efficacious in improving EFs as also addressing children’s emotional, social, and character development (as do martial arts, yoga, and curricula shown to improve EFs). Children with poorer EFs benefit more from training; hence, training might provide them an opportunity to “catch up” with their peers and not be left behind. Remaining questions include how long benefits of EF training last and who benefits most from which activities.
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Current Directions in Psychological
21(5) 335 –341
© The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/0963721412453722
Diverse activities have been reported in research papers pub-
lished in peer-reviewed journals to improve children’s execu-
tive functions (EFs). These activities include computer-based
training, certain school curricula, and training in aerobics, tra-
ditional martial arts, yoga, or mindfulness (for a review, see
Diamond & Lee, 2011). In this paper, I address what can be
learned from these many studies.
First, What Are EFs?
EFs are a family of control functions needed when you have to
concentrate and think, when acting on your initial impulse
might be ill-advised. These functions depend on a neural cir-
cuit in which the prefrontal cortex plays a prominent role
(Anderson, Jacobs, & Anderson, 2008; Bialystok & Craik,
2005). There is general agreement that there are three core
EFs: inhibition (also called “inhibitory control”), working
memory, and cognitive flexibility (e.g., Miyake et al., 2000).
These form the foundation for higher-order EFs, such as
reasoning, problem solving, and planning (Christoff, Ream,
Geddes, & Gabrieli, 2003; Collins & Koechlin, 2012; Lunt
et al., 2012).
Inhibition is important for (a) controlling one’s behavior—
for example, by overriding habitual responses, exerting self-
control (i.e., resisting temptations, such as the temptation to
overeat or to respond impulsively rather than giving a more
considered response), and exercising discipline (e.g., resisting
the temptation to not complete a task); (b) controlling
one’s attention (selective or focused); and (c) controlling one’s
emotions so as not to act inappropriately (an aspect of self-
regulation). In a longitudinal study in which 1,000 children
born in the same city in the same year were followed for 32
years, Moffitt et al. (2011; Moffitt, 2012) found that children
whose inhibition was worse (i.e., they had less persistence,
more impulsivity, and poorer attention regulation) between the
ages of 3 and 11 grew up to have worse health, earn less
money, be less happy, and commit more crimes 30 years later
than did those who had better inhibitory control as children,
controlling for IQ, gender, social class, and home and family
circumstances during childhood. Moffitt et al. (2011) con-
cluded that because the effects of inhibitory control follow a
linear gradient, “interventions that achieve even small
improvements in [inhibitory control]1 for individuals could
shift the entire distribution of outcomes in a salutary direction
Corresponding Author:
Adele Diamond, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia,
2255 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 2A1, Canada
Activities and Programs That Improve
Children’s Executive Functions
Adele Diamond
Depar tment of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia
Executive functions (EFs; e.g., reasoning, working memory, and self-control) can be improved. Good news indeed, since EFs
are critical for school and job success and for mental and physical health. Various activities appear to improve children’s EFs.
The best evidence exists for computer-based training, traditional martial arts, and two school curricula. Weaker evidence,
though strong enough to pass peer review, exists for aerobics, yoga, mindfulness, and other school curricula. Here I address
what can be learned from the research thus far, including that EFs need to be progressively challenged as children improve
and that repeated practice is key. Children devote time and effort to activities they love; therefore, EF interventions might
use children’s motivation to advantage. Focusing narrowly on EFs or aerobic activity alone appears not to be as efficacious
in improving EFs as also addressing children’s emotional, social, and character development (as do martial arts, yoga, and
curricula shown to improve EFs). Children with poorer EFs benefit more from training; hence, training might provide them
an opportunity to “catch up” with their peers and not be left behind. Remaining questions include how long benefits of EF
training last and who benefits most from which activities.
intervention, training, executive control, working memory, self-regulation, cognitive control, inhibition, self-control,
prefrontal cortex, aerobics, yoga, martial arts
336 Diamond
and yield large improvements in health, wealth, and crime rate
for a nation” (p. 2694).
Working memory refers to holding information in mind and
mentally working with it. It is crucial for making sense of any-
thing that unfolds over time, for that requires holding in mind
what happened earlier and relating it to what is happening
now. Therefore, working memory is necessary for making
sense of any linguistic information, whether read or heard. It is
also needed for mentally reordering items (e.g., reorganizing a
to-do list), understanding cause and effect, and mentally relat-
ing pieces of information to derive a general principle or see
novel relations among old ideas.
Cognitive flexibility refers to the ability to change perspec-
tives (e.g., to see something from another person’s point of
view), change the way you think about a problem (e.g., think
outside the box to attack a problem from a different angle),
and be flexible enough to adjust to changed demands or priori-
ties, admit you were wrong, and take advantage of sudden,
unexpected opportunities.
EFs are critical for success in school (Alloway & Alloway,
2010; Borella, Carretti, & Pelgrina, 2010; Duckworth &
Seligman, 2005; Gathercole, Pickering, Knight, & Stegmann,
2004), on the job (Bailey, 2007), in friendships (Rotenberg,
Michalik, Eisenberg, & Betts, 2008), and in marriage (Eakin
et al., 2004); for mental and physical health (Baler & Volkow,
2006; Miller, Barnes, & Beaver, 2011); and for quality of life
(J. C. Davis, Marra, Najafzadeh, & Lui-Ambrose, 2010).
Improving EFs early in life is important because EF problems
in early childhood predict EF problems years later (Friedman
et al., 2007; Moffitt et al., 2011), and early EF deficits often do
not disappear but can grow larger over time (O’Shaughnessy,
Lane, Gresham, & Beebe-Frankenberger, 2003; Riggs, Blair,
& Greenberg, 2003).
What Do We Know About Programs and
Strategies for Improving EFs in Young
Although all the studies that I discuss here passed peer review,
not all provide equally compelling evidence. The strongest
evidence for an activity improving children’s EFs exists for
Cogmed computer-based training for working memory and
reasoning (Bergman Nutley, 2011; Holmes, Gathercole, &
Dunning, 2009; Klingberg et al., 2005; Thorell, Lindqvist,
Bergman, Bohlin, & Klingberg, 2009), a combination of
computerized and interactive games (Mackey, Hill, Stone,
& Bunge, 2011), task-switching computer-based training
(Karbach & Kray, 2009), traditional tae kwon do (Lakes &
Hoyt, 2004), and two add-ons to school curricula: Promoting
Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS; Riggs, Greenberg,
Kusché, & Pentz, 2006) and the Chicago School Readiness
Project (CSRP; Raver et al., 2008, Raver et al., 2011).
All the studies above used random assignment, included an
active control group and pre- and post-intervention measures,
and found convincing evidence that training effects transferred
to more than one objective measure of EFs on which the chil-
dren had not been trained. Studies that have thus far looked at
the benefits to children’s EFs from aerobics (C. L. Davis et al.,
2011; Kamijo et al., 2011; Tuckman & Hinkle, 1986), mind-
fulness (Flook et al., 2010), yoga (Manjunath & Telles, 2001),
the Tools of the Mind early childhood curriculum (Diamond,
Barnett, Thomas, & Munro, 2007), and the Montessori cur-
riculum (Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006) have lacked one or more
of the above features.
In the next two sections, I discuss a few principles that hold
regardless of the program or intervention used.
General principles that apply to EF training
Those who most need improvement benefit the most.
Children with the weakest EFs benefit the most from any EF
intervention or program (Flook et al., 2010; Karbach & Kray,
2009; Lakes & Hoyt, 2004). Hence, early EF training should
be an excellent candidate for leveling the playing field and
reducing social disparities in EFs, thus heading off social dis-
parities in academic achievement and health (O’Shaughnessy
et al., 2003). Because EFs predict school readiness (Blair &
Razza, 2007), later academic performance (Raver et al., 2011;
Li-Grining, Raver, & Pess, 2011), and mental and physical
health (Moffitt et al., 2011), if the early disparity in EFs is nar-
rowed, the disparity in school readiness and academic and
health outcomes should be narrowed as well.
Transfer effects from EF training are narrow. EF training
appears to transfer (i.e., produce benefits to performance of
tasks other than the task used in training), but transfer from
computer-based working memory and reasoning training
observed in studies thus far has been narrow. In children, train-
ing on working memory improves performance on untrained
working memory tasks, but it does not improve inhibition
(Thorell et al., 2009) and probably does not improve reasoning
or problem solving (Bergman Nutley et al., 2011; Thorell et al.,
2009; but see Klingberg et al., 2005). Training on reasoning
improves performance on untrained reasoning tasks but does
not improve working memory (Bergman Nutley et al., 2011)
or processing speed (Mackey et al., 2011). The effects of non-
verbal-reasoning training transfer to the same type of nonver-
bal reasoning but not to a different type of nonverbal reasoning
(Bergman Nutley et al., 2011). Bergman Nutley et al. (2011)
found that the effects of training on nonverbal working mem-
ory transferred to other measures of nonverbal working mem-
ory but not to a measure of verbal working memory.
EF gains resulting from training on task switching
(Karbach & Kray, 2009), traditional martial arts (Lakes &
Hoyt, 2004), and school curricula (Raver et al., 2011; Riggs
et al., 2006) are wider, perhaps because these programs address
EFs more globally. Thus, the transfer to particular EFs may be
just as narrow, but the programs address more EF components.
For example, the effects of training on task switching (which
Improving Children’s Executive Functions 337
arguably requires all three core EFs) were found to transfer not
only to an untrained task-switching task, but also to tests of
inhibition, verbal and nonverbal working memory, and reason-
ing (Karbach & Kray, 2009).
Children’s EFs should be challenged throughout training.
EF demands need to keep increasing as children’s EFs
improve, or few gains will be seen (Bergman Nutley et al.,
2011; Holmes et al., 2009; Klingberg et al., 2005). There may
be two reasons for this. First, if people don’t keep pushing
themselves to do better, they stop improving. Second, if the
difficulty of an activity doesn’t increase, it becomes boring,
and children lose interest. This has been a criticism of the con-
trol conditions in Cogmed studies.
Repeated practice is key. Whether EF gains are seen depends
on the amount of time children spend doggedly working on
these skills, pushing themselves to improve (Klingberg et al.,
2005). This is consistent with what Ericsson (e.g., Ericsson,
Nandagopal, & Roring, 2009) has found to be key for being
truly excellent at anything: hours and hours of practice trying
to master what is just beyond your current level of competence
and comfort (working in what Vygotsky, 1978, would call the
“zone of proximal development”). Similarly, school curricula
shown to improve EFs train and challenge children’s EFs
throughout the day, embedding practice in all activities (which
may also have the benefit of varying the content and kind of
EF practice) rather than in a single, isolated module (Diamond
et al., 2007; Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006; Riggs et al., 2006).
Whether EF gains are produced depends on how an
activity is done. For example, in a study with adolescent
juvenile delinquents (Trulson, 1986), some adolescents were
assigned to traditional tae kwon do, which emphasizes not only
physical conditioning but also character development and self-
control (e.g., waiting until your opponent attacks or is off bal-
ance and then taking advantage of that). Others were assigned
to “modern martial arts” (i.e., martial arts as a competitive
sport, emphasizing only the physical aspect, with no emphasis
on exercising self-control). Compared with the adolescents
who were trained in modern martial arts, those who were
trained in traditional tae kwon do showed less aggression and
anxiety and improved social ability and self-esteem. Those
trained in modern martial arts showed more juvenile delin-
quency and aggressiveness and decreased self-esteem and
social ability.
Outcome measures must test the limits of the children’s
EF abilities to see a benefit from training. In studies of EF-
enhancing activities, the largest differences between interven-
tion groups and controls are consistently found on the most
demanding EF tasks and task conditions. It is often only when
the limits of children’s EF skills are pushed that these differ-
ences emerge (C. L. Davis et al., 2011; Diamond et al., 2007;
Manjunath & Telles, 2001).
Activities reported by at least one published
research study to improve EFs
Computerized training. It is clear that working memory and
reasoning can be improved in children via computer-based
training and specially designed games. The most researched
approach for improving children’s EFs, and one repeatedly
found to be successful, is Cogmed computerized training.
When Cogmed training is on working memory, working mem-
ory improves even on untrained tasks (e.g., Klingberg et al.,
2005; Thorell et al., 2009). Two studies (Holmes et al., 2009,
Holmes et al., 2010) have found that gains in working memory
remained 6 months after training. Moreover, although no
immediate gains in math or reading were found after training,
gains in math were evident 6 months later (Holmes et al.,
2009). When Cogmed training is on reasoning, reasoning
improves. Mackey et al. (2011) found that reasoning training
using a combination of computerized and noncomputerized
games also improved reasoning, even on untrained tasks.
Although there is evidence that computer-based training
can improve children’s working memory and reasoning,
attempts thus far to improve 4- to 6-year-olds’ inhibitory con-
trol using computerized inhibitory-control games or training
have not been successful (Rueda, Rothbart, McCandliss,
Saccomanno, & Posner, 2005; Thorell et al., 2009). For exam-
ple, Rueda et al. (2005) found no EF improvements. Older
children (9-year-olds), however, who received computer-
based task-switching training improved in both task switching
and inhibition (Karbach & Kray, 2009). Other approaches
(e.g., school curricula) have improved inhibition in 4- to
6-year-olds. Thus, either computer-based training is not opti-
mal for training inhibitory control in children so young, or the
optimal computer-based approaches have not yet been studied.
No approach demonstrated to improve EFs in young children
has yet been shown to improve their ability to delay gratifica-
tion; however, that ability has only been measured in assess-
ments, not targeted during training (Lillard & Else-Quest,
2006; Raver et al., 2011).
Physical activity. Many studies have found that aerobic exer-
cise improves EFs, but all but three of them have involved
adults and/or examined the effects of only a single bout of
exercise. The three studies in which young children exercised
over an extended period did not find strong effects. (The earli-
est study, by Tuckman & Hinkle, 1986, found the strongest
effects; the most recent study, by Kamijo et al., 2011, found
the weakest).
Exercise alone may be less effective in improving chil-
dren’s EFs than activities that involve both exercise and char-
acter development (e.g., traditional martial arts) or activities
that involve both exercise and mindfulness (e.g., yoga). Lakes
and Hoyt (2004) randomly assigned children in kindergarten
through fifth grade (5- to 11-year-olds) by homeroom class to
take part in either traditional tae kwon do or standard physical
education. Students in the tae kwon do group improved more
338 Diamond
than students in the standard-physical-education group in
working memory and on all dimensions of inhibitory control
studied (e.g., cognitive inhibitory control, measured on a
distractible–focused continuum; discipline, measured on a
quitting–persevering continuum; and emotion regulation).
These effects generalized to multiple contexts and were found
on multiple measures.
In a pilot study of the effects of yoga (which involved phys-
ical training, relaxation, and sensory awareness) on children’s
EFs, 10- and 13-year-old girls were randomly assigned to
either yoga or physical training for 75 minutes a day, 7 days a
week for 1 month (Manjunath & Telles, 2001). Those who did
yoga improved more in planning and execution on the Tower
of London (a task that requires all three core EFs), especially
when task conditions were more difficult and complex, than
did controls.
School curricula. The two curricula empirically shown to
improve children’s EFs—Montessori (Lillard & Else-Quest,
2006) and Tools of the Mind (inspired by Vygotsky, 1978;
Diamond et al., 2007)—share a number of features in common
(Diamond & Lee, 2011). They both (a) help children exercise
their EFs and constantly challenge them to do so at higher lev-
els; (b) reduce stress in the classroom; (c) rarely embarrass a
child; (d) cultivate children’s joy, pride, and self-confidence;
(e) take an active and hands-on approach to learning; (f) easily
accommodate children progressing at different rates; (g) em -
phasize character development as well as academic develop-
ment; (h) emphasize oral language; (i) engage children in
teaching one another; and (j) foster social skills and bonding.
Many of these characteristics are also true of the two programs
designed to complement school curricula that have been
shown to improve EFs: PATHS (Riggs et al., 2006) and CSRP
(Raver et al., 2011). Disadvantaged preschool children ran-
domly assigned to a CSRP Head Start class showed better EFs
than did controls at the end of that preschool year; moreover,
they continued to perform better than controls in math and
reading for the next 3 years, and those academic gains were
mediated almost entirely through improved EFs (Li-Grining
et al., 2011).
Both Tools of the Mind and CSRP are meant to be used
only with children aged 3 to 6. None of the four programs
shown to improve EFs have reported EF benefits in children
older than 9 years of age. Thus, the effects of school curri-
cula have been studied so far only in very young children.
The school programs and their assessment have concentrated
heavily on inhibitory control. A randomized control trial of
Tools of the Mind is currently underway (Farran & Wilson,
2011). This study is particularly noteworthy because of
its impeccable research design and the meticulous way in
which it is being conducted. The first year of data collection
failed to show a benefit from Tools of the Mind, but that may
have been because of floor and ceiling effects of the EF
Conclusions and Future Directions
Clearly, EFs can be improved in children, even in those as
young as 4 or 5 years of age, without specialists and even
without computers. To improve EFs, focusing narrowly on
them may be less effective than also addressing emotional and
social development (as do curricula shown to improve EFs)
and/or physical fitness (as do aerobics, martial arts, and yoga).
I hypothesize that the programs that will most successfully
improve EFs are those that challenge EFs continually and also
bring children joy and pride, give them a feeling of social
inclusion and belonging, and help their bodies to be strong, fit,
and healthy (Diamond, in press). Figure 1 illustrates this
hypothesized model.
No one has yet looked at the available data to see what,
other than amount of practice and baseline EFs, distinguishes
children who benefit from EF interventions from children who
do not. We know little about whether the benefits of EF inter-
ventions last and, if so, how long they last, in which domains,
and what factors affect how long they last. Only one study
(C. L. Davis et al., 2011) has systematically varied dosage
(i.e., how much time was devoted to the activity at each indi-
vidual session) or frequency. We know little about how the
optimal dose, frequency, or duration of an intervention might
vary as a function of a child’s age or the type of activity. Which
kind of program helps children most at which age? Research
to date has suggested that Cogmed and martial arts might work
best for children 8 years of age and older, whereas the efficacy
of school curricula in improving EFs has been demonstrated
(and studied) only in very young children and primarily for
inhibitory control.
It is likely that many activities not yet studied might
improve children’s EFs (e.g., theater, orchestra, choir, caring
for an animal, filmmaking, basketball, street soccer, rowing
crew, rock climbing, and more). Who might benefit most from
which activity? Which activities produce the most long-lasting
benefits, and why? Given the drawbacks of randomized con-
trol trials and that they are not always feasible, what other
research approaches might work well for investigating the
efficacy of various activities for improving children’s EFs?
Whether EF gains are seen depends on the way in which an
activity is done and the amount of time one spends doing it,
pushing oneself to do better. It’s the discipline, the practice,
that produces the benefits. The most important element of a
program might be that it involves an activity children love, so
they will devote intensive time and effort to it. An enthusiastic,
charismatic adult can often engender that passionate interest in
children. Improving EFs and thus school and job success is
serious business, yet there is no reason one needs to be grim
though working hard on important matters; one can be joyful
even while working hard. Indeed, research has shown that
people are more creative and have more energy for their work
if they are passionate about it (e.g., Hirt, Devers, & McCrea,
2008). Why not harness children’s passionate interests in the
Improving Children’s Executive Functions 339
service of the children’s positive development and academic
Recommended Reading
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the effects of physical exercise on EFs and on prefrontal cortex.
Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). (See References). Provides a review
of a variety of approaches for improving EFs, with extensive
details on studies in supplementary tables.
Klingberg, T. (2010). Training and plasticity of working memory.
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Melby-Lervåg, M., & Hulme, C. (2012). Is working memory training
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Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028228. Provides a
review of computerized working memory training.
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work? The promise and challenges of enhancing cognition by train-
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Provides a review of computerized working memory training.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author declared that she had no conflicts of interest with respect
to her authorship or the publication of this article.
The author gratefully acknowledges support from the National
Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant R01 DA019685) during the writing
of this paper.
Builds EFs:
Focus, Discipline,
Holding Complex
Sequences in
Working Memory,
and Quick,
Adaptation to
Indirect Routes
Direct Route
Increases Feelings of
Social Belonging and
Builds Confidence,
Pride, and Sense of
Increases Joy
Incidence and/or
Severity of EF
Disorders (e.g.,
Addictions, and
Conduct Disorder)
Outcomes and
School Success
Improves Physical
Fig. 1. Prefrontal cortex and executive functions (EFs) are the first area of the brain and mental functions to
suffer, and suffer disproportionately, if you are sad (von Hecker & Meiser, 2005), stressed (Arnsten, 1998) , lonely
(Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008) , or not physically fit (Hillman, Erickson, & Kramer, 200 8). Unmet emotional, social, or
physical needs work against displaying good EFs. Conversely, when people are less stressed, happier, more physically
fit, and socially suppor ted, they can think more clearly and creatively and exercise better self- control and discipline
(i.e., display better EFs). Therefore, I hypothesize that programs that will most successfully improve children’s
EFs are those that require and directly challenge EFs and suppor t EFs indirectly by reducing children’s stress or
improving their ability to handle stress, increasing their joy, helping them feel that they belong and that others are
there for them, and improving their physical fitness.
340 Diamond
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... The executive functions encompass a set of control skills necessary to concentrate, think and act (Diamond, 2012). They are essential to successfully perform various everyday tasks and establish a connection between the individuals and the environment. ...
... Based on psychometric data, Miyake et al. (2000) proposed three core executive functions -working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility, which are the basis for the formation of complex executive functions such as reasoning, problem solving and planning (Diamond, 2012). This is the model with the most reports in the literature, as it has been widely accepted in neuropsychological studies. ...
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Education is an area directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teachers started to have new work demands, which can be perceived as stressful variables. This study aimed at analyzing the relationship between cognitive planning and occupational stress among teachers from Distrito Federal, in the COVID-19 pandemic context. This is a correlational and quantitative study, whose variables are cognitive planning, occupational stress and cognitive failures. Data collection was performed electronically with 29 adults aged between 30 and 49 years old, by applying the Cognitive Planning Scale, the Work-related Stress Scale and the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire. The analysis was conducted using descriptive statistics, parametric and non-parametric tests and correlations. The results indicated that there was no significant relationship between cognitive planning and occupational stress. In addition, the study contributed to the discussion of the effects of the pandemic on basic education professionals.
... Simultaneously, EF assessment tools and ECE curriculum objectives and practices were also examined. In the current study, we aimed to address three core EFs, inhibition or inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2011; Diamond, 2012). Each proposed game idea was then evaluated considering resources (i.e., cost, time, and technical feasibility) and then the most applicable were decided upon with the approval of the ECE academic. ...
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This paper reports on the design and development of educational games and materials that utilize affordable e-textile technology. The researchers employed a design-based approach whereby preschool children used three e-textile materials in two cycles to inform on the development of interactive materials from ordinary objects and bodily interactive games. The study’s data were collected and analyzed according to the design-based research framework through iterative cycles of interviewing, video recording, and note-taking. The paper describes the characteristics, pros, and cons of e-textiles and what to consider when using them to create interactive educational materials for preschool-aged children.
... Playful Learning Landscapes (PLL) is a new initiative that takes what researchers know about child development and embeds these insights into everyday spaces. For example, executive functioning (EF) skills are foundational for later academic achievement (Diamond, 2012;Morgan et al., 2019) and have been the target of intervention work seeking to close educational opportunity gaps (Waters et al., 2021). What if designed environments encouraged families and children to exercise their EF skills in spaces where they already spend time together? ...
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What if the environment could be transformed in culturally-responsive and inclusive ways to foster high-quality interactions and spark conversations that drive learning? In this article, we describe a new initiative accomplishing this, called Playful Learning Landscapes (PLL). PLL is an evidence-based initiative that blends findings from the science of learning with community-based participatory research to transform physical public spaces and educational settings into playful learning hubs. Here, we describe our model for conducting this research, which is mindful of three key components: community input, how children learn best, and what children need to learn to be successful in the 21st century economy. We describe how this model was implemented in two PLL case studies: one in a predominantly Latine community and the second in early childhood education classrooms. Furthermore, we describe how research employing our model can be rigorously and reliably evaluated using observational and methodological tools that respond to diverse cultural settings and learning outcomes. For example, our work evaluates how PLL impacts adult–child interaction quality and language use, attitudes about play and learning, and community civic engagement. Taken together, this article highlights new ways to involve community voices in developmental and educational research and provides a model of how science can be translated into practice and evaluated in culturally responsive ways. This synthesis of our process and evaluation can be used by researchers, policymakers, and educators to reimagine early educational experiences with an eye toward the built environment that children inhabit in everyday life, creating opportunities that foster lifelong learning.
... Cognitive flexibility makes it possible to respond to the demands of the environment by changing the focus of attention or by searching for alternative ways of solving tasks that entail new priorities [81]. As for inhibition, this dimension of the executive function has also not been assessed in previous meta-analyses in adults with depression. ...
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Executive function is among the most affected cognitive dimensions in depression. Physical ex-ercise may improve executive function (e.g., working memory, inhibition, cognitive flexibility), although without consensus on adults with depression. Through this systematic review, we aim to elucidate the effects of physical exercise programs on executive functions in adults with depression. The literature search was performed in four relevant electronic databases, combining keywords and medical subject headings, from inception until September 2022. Controlled interventions were considered includable, involving adults with depression, and reporting working memory, inhi-bition, and/or cognitive flexibility pre-post-intervention data. Meta-analyses results included effect size (ES, i.e., Hedges’ g) values reported with 95% confidence intervals (95%CIs), with p set at ≤0.05. Seven studies were included, including 202 men and 457 women (age: 21.0–51.2 years; mild–moderate depression). For working memory, a small favoring effect was observed in the ex-perimental groups compared to controls (ES = 0.33, 95%CI = 0.04–0.61; p = 0.026; I2 = 64.9%). For inhibition, physical exercise had a small favoring non-significant effect compared to controls (ES = 0.28, 95%CI = −0.17–0.74; p = 0.222; I2 = 72.4%). Compared to the control group, physical exercise had a trivial effect on cognitive flexibility (ES = 0.09, 95%CI = −0.21–0.39; p = 0.554; I2 = 68.4%). In con-clusion, physical exercise interventions may improve working memory behavioral measures in adults with mild-to-moderate depression when compared to active and passive control conditions. However, the reduced number of available high-quality studies precludes more lucid conclusions.
... Here, we propose that future work should perform further computational investigations centered on incorporating measures of executive function. Modeling any relationships among theory change, prediction, pupillary, and executive function skills (such as inhibition and cognitive flexibility; [74,75]) may provide further insight into other relevant mechanisms that support science concept learning. Such modeling would highlight whether executive function affects model performance straightforwardly, where higher executive function measures might correlate with better model performance. ...
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Bayesian models allow us to investigate children’s belief revision alongside physiological states like “surprise”. Recent work finds that pupil dilation (or the “pupillary surprise response”) following expectancy-violations may be predictive of belief revision. How can probabilistic models inform interpretations of “surprise”? Shannon Information considers the likelihood of an observed event, given prior beliefs – suggesting stronger surprise occurs following unlikely events. In contrast, Kullback-Leibler divergence considers the “dissimilarity” between prior beliefs and updated beliefs following observations – with greater surprise indicating more change between belief states to accommodate information. To assess these accounts under different learning contexts, we use Bayesian models that compare these computational measures of “surprise” to contexts where children are asked to either predict or to evaluate the same evidence during a water displacement task. We find correlations between the computed Kullback-Leibler divergence and children’s pupillometry responses only when children actively make predictions, and no correlation between Shannon Information and pupillometry. This suggests that when children attend to their beliefs and make predictions, pupillary responses may signal the degree of divergence between a child’s current beliefs and updated, more accommodating beliefs.
Parents support their children’s language and cognitive development through everyday, informal learning opportunities. We discuss how parents can capitalize on current research and theories of children’s development to cultivate the foundational skills needed to succeed in the twenty-first century. We first examine how children learn; specifically, how being active, engaged, meaningful, socially interactive, and joyful leads to optimal learning. We then discuss the 6 Cs (collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creativity, and confidence), or what children learn, and how parents can play a central role in supporting their children’ development of these skills.
Multiple studies have investigated the impact of teaching coding on some cognitive processes, with promising results. Based on this background, the current study evaluated the effect of a computational thinking intervention on the executive functioning of school-age children. The research had a between-subjects experimental design, with pre and post measurements and a control group. The measurement instrument was the BANFE-2 battery. The experimental group participated in an 8-week intervention in which they were taught to coding using the micro:bit device and the MakeCode programming environment. The findings revealed significant transfer effects on the executive functions of the students.
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The development of human brain is shaped by both genetic and environmental factors. Sex differences in cognitive function have been found in humans as a result of sexual dimorphism in neural information transmission. Numerous studies have reported the positive effects of education on cognitive functions. However, little work has investigated the effect of education on attenuating cognitive sex differences and the neural mechanisms behind it based on healthy population. In this study, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) was employed to examine sex differences in cognitive function in 135 Thai healthy subjects, and label-free quantitative proteomic method and bioinformatic analysis were used to study sex-specific neurotransmission-related protein expression profiles. The results showed a sex difference in two WCST sub-scores: percentage of Total corrects and Total errors in the primary education group (Bayes factor>100) with males performed better, while such differences eliminated in secondary and tertiary education level. Moreover, 11 differentially expressed proteins (DEPs) between men and women (FDR<0.1) were presented in both education groups, with majority of them upregulated in females. Half of those DEPs interacted directly with nAChR3, whereas the other DEPs were indirectly connected to the cholinergic pathways through interaction with estrogen. These findings implied that Cholinergic-estrogen interaction underpins the effect of education on attenuating cognitive sex differences in a Thai healthy population.
The collected papers from the most prestigious symposia in the field of child development provide scholars, students, and practitioners with access to the work of key researchers in human development. This volume focuses on changes in our understanding of cogisnitive control processes-constructs important to the field since Wundt and Freud. Our understanding of these constructs has advanced dramatically in recent years-both empirically and conceptually. This collection brings generalists and specialists alike up-to-date on this central process of human development and the implications for this new knowledge on school success and other areas.
This book creates a bridge across cognitive development and cognitive aging. Pairs of researchers study the rise and fall of specific cognitive functions, such as attention, executive functioning, memory, working memory, representations, language, problem solving, intelligence, and individual differences to find ways in which the study of development and decline converge on common processes and mechanisms. The chapters are framed by an introduction that sets out the problems to be discussed and a conclusion that extracts the common themes and speculates on the implications for theory building. The book offers a lifespan approach to cognition by experts in the individual facts of cognitive functioning from either the developmental or the aging perspective. © 2006 by Ellen Bialystok, Fergus I.M. Craik. All rights reserved.
Juvenile delinquents, identified by their scores on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) received training under one of three different protocols for 1 hour three times weekly for a period of 6 months. Group I students received training in the traditional Korean Martial Art of Tae Kwon Do, Group II students received training in a “modern” version of the martial art which did not emphasize the psychological/philosophical aspects of the sport as the Korean version did, and group III students served as a control group for contact with the instructor and physical activity. Group I students showed decreased aggressiveness, lowered anxiety, increased selfesteem, increased social adroitness, and an increase in value orthodoxy, as indicated by before-and-after scores on the Jackson Personality Inventory (JPI), in addition to normal MMPI scores at the completion of the study. Group II students showed an even greater tendency toward delinquency on the MMPI than they did at the beginning of the study, a large increase in aggressiveness, and generally opposite effects of Group I on the JPL Group Ill students showed no notable differences on any of the personality measures. These data suggest that training in the traditional martial art of Tae Kwon Do is effective in reducing juvenile delinquent tendencies.
A school-based program of mindful awareness practices (MAPs) was evaluated in a randomized control study of 64 second- and third-grade children ages 7–9 years. The program was delivered for 30 minutes, twice per week, for 8 weeks. Teachers and parents completed questionnaires assessing children's executive function immediately before and following the 8-week period. Multivariate analysis of covariance on teacher and parent reports of executive function (EF) indicated an interaction effect between baseline EF score and group status on posttest EF. That is, children in the MAPs group who were less well regulated showed greater improvement in EF compared with controls. Specifically, those children starting out with poor EF who went through the MAPs training showed gains in behavioral regulation, metacognition, and overall global executive control. These results indicate a stronger effect of MAPs on children with executive function difficulties. The finding that both teachers and parents reported changes suggests that improvements in children's behavioral regulation generalized across settings. Future work is warranted using neurocognitive tasks of executive functions, behavioral observation, and multiple classroom samples to replicate and extend these preliminary findings.
Under stress, our brain works differently. From our own experiences we know this, but now several lines of research are defining the neurobiology behind these changes. In her commentary, Arnsten summarizes recent work that demonstrates that some kinds of memory become enhanced (such as the image of a gruesome accident), while higher order thinking, mediated by a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, becomes impaired.
Over the past 2 decades, a substantial knowledge base has accumulated about the fundamentals of young chil- dren's learning difficulties and behavioral problems. This informa- tion provides educators with powerful and practical information about how to identify children in need of intervention and how to ensure successful school experiences for all learners. In addition, a growing body of research is beginning to shed light on how to effectively incorporate empirically supported approaches into daily practices. This article describes a school-wide system of early identification and intervention for children placed at risk for school success and discusses how schools might implement the recom- mendations offered in the literature.
What if being lonely were a bigger problem than we ever suspected? Based on John T. Cacioppo's pioneering research, Loneliness explores the effects of this all-too-human experience, providing a fundamentally new view of the importance of social connection and how it can rescue us from painful isolation. His sophisticated studies relying on brain imaging, analysis of blood pressure, immune response, stress hormones, behavior, and even gene expression show that human beings are simply far more intertwined and interdependent—physiologically as well as psychologically—than our cultural assumptions have ever allowed us to acknowledge. Bringing urgency to the message, Cacioppo's findings also show that prolonged loneliness can be as harmful to your health as smoking or obesity. On the flip side, they demonstrate the therapeutic power of social connection and point the way toward making that healing balm available to everyone. Cacioppo has worked with science writer William Patrick to trace the evolution of these tandem forces, showing how, for our primitive ancestors, survival depended not on greater brawn but on greater commitments to and from one another. Serving as a prompt to repair frayed social bonds, the pain of loneliness engendered a fear response so powerfully disruptive that even now, millions of years later, a persistent sense of rejection or isolation can impair DNA transcription in our immune cells. This disruption also impairs thinking, will power, and perseverance, as well as our ability to read social signals and exercise social skills. It also limits our ability to internally regulate our emotions—all of which can combine to trap us in self-defeating behaviors that reinforce the very isolation and rejection that we dread. Loneliness shows each of us how to overcome this feedback loop of defensive behaviors to achieve better health and greater happiness. For society, the potential payoff is the greater prosperity and social cohesion that follows from increased social trust. Ultimately, Loneliness demonstrates the irrationality of our culture's intense focus on competition and individualism at the expense of family and community. It makes the case that the unit of one is actually an inadequate measure, even when it comes to the health and well-being of the individual. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)