Neuroscientists

Adele Diamond

Adele Diamond

The conference and resulting book served to jumpstart many research collaborations and the nascent field of developmental cognitive neuroscience.

Adele Diamond’s team made two discoveries that led to worldwide improvements in the medical treatment for phenylketonuria (PKU), improving the lives of thousands of children. Prof. Diamond identified the biological mechanism causing EF deficits in children treated for PKU, and, demonstrated how to prevent those deficits. 

She provided the first demonstration of a visual deficit in treated PKU children (which changed international guidelines for the age of treatment onset and that markedly improved children’s lives.)

Her 2005 paper on the fundamental neurobiological and clinical differences between the inattentive-type ADHD and those ADHD types in which hyperactivity is present was titled “BADD (ADHD without hyperactivity), a neurobiologically and behaviorally distinct disorder from ADHD (with hyperactivity)”.

Her lab is now investigating:

  • the power of the arts (music and the spoken word) to improve mood and slow or reverse cognitive decline with aging.
  • whether children with ADHD are being over-medicated for optimal school performance.
  • the effects of stress on EFs, and how that differs by gender and genotype.

Much of Diamond’s work has started with a “YES, YOU CAN” premise: even though a child may appear incapable of doing or understanding something, if we pose the question differently or teach the concept in new ways, the child can succeed.

Adele Dorothy Diamond FRSC is a professor of neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, where she is currently a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. One of the pioneers in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience,

Diamond researches how executive functions are affected by biological and environmental factors, especially in children. Her discoveries have improved treatment for disorders such as phenylketonuria and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and they have impacted early education.

Diamond grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and attended public schools. She graduated from John Bowne High School as Valedictorian.

She attended Swarthmore College on a four-year Swarthmore National Scholarship and graduated in 1975, majoring in Sociology-Anthropology and Psychology. She was a member of the Varsity Volleyball and Archery teams all four years.

While still at Swarthmore, in 1972, she attended the London School of Economics, studying the philosophy of science with Imre Lakatos, an important Popperian philosopher.

Diamond did her PhD graduate work at Harvard University (graduating in 1983), with a four-year NSF Graduate Fellowship for those thought to have outstanding research promise and a three-year Danforth Graduate Fellowship for those committed to university teaching.

Although officially a PhD candidate in Psychology, she spent her first four years of graduate school working primarily in Anthropology and Sociology. At that time, Harvard had an NIMH-funded Pre-doctoral Training Program in Cross-Cultural Psychological Research and the program awarded Diamond three years of funding for her dissertation: one year to prepare to go into the field, one year to go anywhere in the world to do the research (she chose the South Pacific because it seemed the most idyllic), and one year to write up the results.

Diamond organized a seminal conference, “The Development and Neural Basis of Higher Cognitive Functions,” that brought together developmental psychologists, neuroscientists, and cognitive scientists who were using the same behavioral paradigms but did not know it because people in different fields had not been talking to one another.


Miguel Nicolelis

Miguel Nicolelis

On January 15, 2008, Dr. Nicolelis lab saw a monkey implanted with a new BCI successfully control a robot walking on a treadmill in Kyoto, Japan. The monkey could see the robot, named CB, on a screen in front of him, and was rewarded for walking in sync with the robot (which was under the control of the monkey).

After an hour the monkey’s treadmill was turned off, but he was able to continue to direct the robot to walk normally for another few minutes, indicating that a part of the brain not sufficient to induce a motor response in the monkey had become dedicated to controlling the robot, as if it were an extension of itself.

In 2013, a report of research by Nicolelis and others was published which showed brain to brain communication between two rats using brain–computer interfaces. This result may demonstrate the feasibility of a biological computer consisting of a network of animal, or human, brains. Currently, researchers are divided on their views of this research. 

*March 7, 1961, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Miguel Ângelo Laporta Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D. is a Brazilian scientist, physician and Duke School of Medicine Professor in Neuroscience at Duke University, best known for his pioneering work surrounding brain-machine interface technology.

Nicolelis holds a medical degree from the University of São Paulo (1984), a doctorate in Sciences (General Physiology) from the University of São Paulo (1989) and a PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from Hahnemann University.

He is a full professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Co-Director of the Neuroengineering Center at Duke University (USA).

Founder of the Alberto Santos Dumont Association for Research Support (AASDAP) and the Santos Dumont Institute (ISD), he proposed the use of science as an agent of social and economic transformation.

Nicolelis is a Researcher at the International Institute of Neurosciences Edmond and Lily Safra (IIN-ELS) and Coordinator of the Andar de Novo Project, developed at AASDAP in São Paulo.

He and his colleagues at Duke University implanted electrode arrays into a monkey’s brain that were able to detect the monkey’s motor intent and thus able to control reaching and grasping movements performed by a robotic arm. This was possible by decoding signals of hundreds of neurons recorded in volitional areas of the cerebral cortex while the monkey played with a hand-held joystick to move a shape in a video game. 

These signals were sent to the robot arm, which then mimicked the monkey’s movements and thus controlled the game. After a while the monkey realised that thinking about moving the shape was enough and it no longer needed to move the joystick. So it let go of the joystick and controlled the game purely through thought. A system in which brain signals directly control an artificial actuator is commonly referred to as brain-machine interface or brain-computer interface.


Eric R. Kandel

Eric. R. Kandel

Grundfest was known for using the oscilloscope to demonstrate that action potential conduction velocity depends on axon diameter. The researchers Kandel interacted with were contemplating the technical challenges of intracellular recordings of the electrical activity of the relatively small neurons of the vertebrate brain.

Working with Alden Spencer, he found electrophysiological evidence for action potentials in the dendritic trees of hippocampal neurons.

Since 1974, Kandel actively contributes to science as a member of the Division of Neurobiology and Behavior at the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. In 2008, he and Daniela Pollak discovered that conditioning mice to associate a specific noise with protection from harm, a behavior called “learned safety”, produces a behavioral antidepressant effect comparable to that of medications.

He is a Senior Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was also the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which is now the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University.

He currently serves on the Scientific Council of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Kandel’s popularized account chronicling his life and research, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology.

*7 November 1929, Vienna, Austria

Eric Richard Kandel is an Austrian-born American medical doctor who specialized in psychiatry, a neuroscientist and a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.

He was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard.

After arriving in the United States and settling in Brooklyn, Kandel was tutored by his grandfather in Judaic studies and was accepted at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, from which he graduated in 1944. He attended Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall High School in the New York City school system.

Kandel’s initial interests lay in the area of history. History and Literature was his undergraduate major at Harvard University. He wrote an undergraduate honors thesis on “The Attitude Toward National Socialism of Three German Writers: Carl Zuckmayer, Hans Carossa, and Ernst Jünger”. While at Harvard, a place dominated by the work of B. F. Skinner, Kandel became interested in learning and memory.

However, while Skinner championed a strict separation of psychology, as its own level of discourse, from biological considerations such as neurology, Kandel’s work is essentially centered on an explanation of the relationships between psychology and neurology.

The world of neuroscience was opened up to Kandel when he met Anna Kris, whose parents Ernst Kris and Marianne Rie were psychoanalysts. Sigmund Freud, a pioneer in revealing the importance of unconscious neural processes, was at the root of Kandel’s interest in the biology of motivation and unconscious and conscious memory.

In 1952 he started at the New York University Medical School. By graduation he was firmly interested in the biological basis of the mind. During this time he met his future wife, Denise Bystryn. Kandel was first exposed to research in Harry Grundfest’s laboratory at Columbia University.

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