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38th Annual Arthur Benton Lecture / "Translating Neurobiological Insights concerning Prefrontal Cortex and Executive Functions into Clinical Implications" / Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC

  • 9 Jan 2023
  • 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
  • Zoom link to follow


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    The 38th Annual Arthur L. Benton Lecture

    Adele Diamond, PhD, FRSC

    Translating Neurobiological Insights concerning Prefrontal Cortex and Executive Functions into Clinical Implications

  • 1.0  CE* credit (1 hour) available

Abstract: Executive functions (EFs) make it possible for us to think before we act, resist temptations, mentally manipulate information, creatively problem-solve, and succeed despite obstacles. EFs depend on prefrontal cortex (PFC) and interconnected brain regions.

These are stressful times. Stress impairs EFs. It can cause anyone to look as if that person has ADHD. Understanding how stress impacts PFC and EFs can help clinicians to better understand where an executive dysfunction might be coming from.

Because of unique properties of PFC, even extremely mild stress impairs the EFs of most people. There are good neurobiological reasons for that. For example, even mild stress increases dopamine in PFC and nowhere else in the brain. That can easily push dopamine past the optimal level in PFC. Despite talk of “good” stress, there’s no level of stress that is good for most people’s EFs. In particular, feeling stressed because you’re worried about what others might think of you or might think of your performance (social evaluative stress) is not beneficial for most people’s EFs. Joy and the challenge of pushing one’s limits are better motivators than fear or anxiety. (Experiencing stress might be good, for example, for learning how to cope with stress; but while you are experiencing the stress, your EFs will probably not be at their best).

Although PFC is especially vulnerable to stress, PFC can be key in helping one feel less anxious or stressed. Normally, the amygdala sends out alarm signals whenever there’s a risk one might be harmed.  It is PFC that calms down the amygdala when there is really no cause for alarm.

Another unusual property of PFC is a relative dearth of dopamine transporter protein. Dopamine transporter (DAT) is abundant in the striatum but sparse in PFC. When you hear that stimulants like methylphenidate aid ADHD by inhibiting reuptake, that is referring to inhibiting reuptake of dopamine by DAT. The mechanism by which stimulants mitigate the cognitive deficits (the EF deficits) in ADHD must be other than by inhibiting reuptake of dopamine by DAT in PFC.

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.


Learning Objectives- the lecture is designed to help you to:

1.     Describe why even mild stress impairs prefrontal cortex and executive functions.

2.     Explain how prefrontal cortex helps calm down the amygdala and how that can go awry in persons who’ve experienced severe stress growing up.

3.     Select some simple activities and games that can improve focused attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility and creative problem-solving.


*Members: Free attendance & Free CE credit

*Non-members: $15 attendance & $15 CE credit

*New York Neuropsychology Group is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Psychology as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed psychologists #PSY-0107 

*New York Neuropsychology Group is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. NYNG maintains responsibility for this program and its content. 

*Refund Policy: Full refund will be provided if cancellation occurs up to 24 hours prior to the event. Cancellation requests made within 24 hours are non-refundable. 

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