Leading Neuroscientist to shine spotlight on Executive Function challenges at London summit

Friday 8th June 2018


One of the world’s most influential neuroscientists will deliver a keynote speech at a London summit next week.

Adele Diamond, professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, in Canada, will talk about how ‘executive function’ (EF) skills are relevant in the 21st Century.

She will share findings from her research about what activities and interventions are effective for promoting childrens’ EFs at the Connections in Mind annual summit, which will be held on 14 June at the Foundling museum in Bloomsbury.

The event aims to build on a growing body of research which overturns the theory that children with emotional or behavioural difficulties who fail academically do so because they are lazy, unmotivated or just generally disruptive.

It is now believed many of these students could have EF challenges.

Imogen Moore-Shelley, co-founder of specialist training provider Connections in Mind, which is hosting the event, said: “It is so exciting to have Adele at our summit. She is one of the pioneers in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience and is at the forefront of research on EF.

“Her work has improved treatment for medical disorders such as ADHD and has also impacted early education. Delegates at the summit will learn so much from her.”

Executive function (EF) refers to a set of skills in the prefrontal cortex of the brain which helps us to plan and organise our responses, behaviour and emotions. These skills underpin learning and enable children and adolescents to function with a reasonable degree of independence.

But recent research has revealed that the prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until a person reaches the age of 25, which could explain why so many young people struggle with organisation, punctuality, staying focused and time management.

“It’s like having an orchestra without a conductor,” Moore-Shelley said. “We are failing our kids in so many ways by not teaching them key executive function skills. They are vital for academic success and life in general. Connections in Mind runs specialist training programmes for individuals, parents and teachers to help overcome EF difficulties.”

EF skills, which are directly correlated with educational attainment, are determined by both genes and the environment and there is evidence to suggest that students from lower socio-economic status backgrounds often struggle more. Children with conditions including ADHD and Asperger’s and dyslexia are also likely to experience executive function challenges.

A classroom approach, Activated Learning, which integrates the teaching of EF skills into the general curriculum, has been developed by Canadian academic, Laurie Faith.

Faith will run an Activated Learning workshop at next week’s event.




  • According to this model there are 11 main executive functions which are most implicated in schools:
    • Response inhibition: The capacity to think before you act – this ability to resist the urge to say or do something allows us the time to evaluate a situation and how our behaviour might impact it.
    • Working memory: The ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks. It incorporates the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future.
    • Emotional control: The ability to manage emotions in order to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control or direct behaviour
    • Flexibility: The ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information or mistakes. It relates to an adaptability to changing conditions
    • Sustained attention: The capacity to maintain attention to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue or boredom
    • Task initiation: The ability to begin projects without undue procrastination, in an efficient or timely fashion.
    • Planning and prioritisation: The ability to create a roadmap or systems to reach a goal. It also involves being able to make decisions about what is important to focus upon and what is not important.
    • Organisation: The ability to create and maintain a system to keep track of information or materials.
    • Time management: The capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it and how to stay within time limits or deadlines. It also involves a sense that time is important.
    • Goal-directed persistence: The capacity to have a goal, follow through to the completion and not be put off or distracted by competing interests
    • Metacognition: The ability to stand back and take a birds-eye view of oneself in a situation. It is an ability to obseve how you problem solve. It also includes self-monitoring and self-evaluating by asking: “How am I doing?” or “How did I do?”

Connections in Mind is an ADHD coach and EF specialist providing education and coaching for students and educators. The company was founded in 2015 by three like-minded women, who wanted to be instrumental in making the current UK eductation system less challenging for students with EF challenges. The company offers a raft of training packages to schools to enable teachers to introduce Activated Learning into the classroom.