DEVELOPING INHIBITORY CONTROL
The ability to exert inhibitory control over our actions, thoughts, and emotions is essential in life. This ability develops gradually, predicts important life outcomes, and is impaired in many clinical disorders. This project investigates the mechanisms that support the development of inhibitory control, and their implications for targeted intervention, through experimental studies with children and tightly integrated computational modeling.
DEVELOPING ADAPTIVE COORDINATION OF EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS
Executive functions are the goal-directed processes that support flexible adaptation of behavior in response to changing circumstances. Executive functions are diverse, each with relative costs and benefits, indicating the need for individuals to adaptively coordinate distinct forms of executive function, and highlighting the potential importance of this coordination process in development, life outcomes, and disorders. This project thus investigates how forms of executive function are adaptively coordinated across development to match ongoing demands and how this process relates to real-world functioning, highlighting fundamental but under-explored aspects of executive function and its development.
EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS, MATH LEARNING, EQUITY
Spark Math: Igniting the Next Generation of Powerful Learners. This multi-site project is developing a comprehensive system of supports for sixth grade mathematics instruction for students from historically disenfranchised groups. This work integrates executive function activities, math concepts, inclusive design, educational technology, and learning game development. The interdisciplinary, collaborative team includes Yuko Munakata (UC Davis), Priti Shah and Jamaal Matthews (University of Michigan), Ben Katz (Virginia Tech), Kathy Perkins and David Webb (University of Colorado Boulder), and Brent Milne, Krista Marks, and Tom Fischaber (Saga Education).
Executive functioning does not happen in a vacuum. The engagement of executive functions can be supported and shaped by social and cultural forces, such as group norms around controlled behavior, social trust that delayed rewards will be delivered as promised, and opportunities to spend time in structured or less-structured activities. These forces may help to explain why early executive functioning predicts important life outcomes and why individual differences in executive functioning show stability across development. This project investigates social and cultural influences on executive functioning in the moment and over the longer term.
In recent years, numerous mindfulness-based programs for children have emerged. While mindfulness' benefits are promising, findings are mixed, and little is known about why mindfulness practice sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. With support from the Renée Crown Wellness Institute at CU Boulder, this project investigates how to reliably measure mindfulness in children, the relationships between mindfulness and cognitive processes such as executive functions, and how these processes may change after children engage in mindfulness activities. By better understanding the relationships between mindfulness and cognition, we build the foundations to design more targeted, customized interventions to support children's well-being and development.