Although the study of brain development in non-human animals is an old one, recent imaging methods have allowed non-invasive studies of the grey and white matter of the human brain over the lifespan. Classic animal studies show clearly that impoverished environments reduce cortical grey matter in relation to complex environments and cognitive and imaging studies in humans suggest which networks may be most influenced by poverty. Studies have been clear in showing the plasticity of many brain systems, but whether sensitivity (...) to learning differs over the lifespan and for which networks is still unclear. A major task for current research is a successful integration of these methods to understand how development and learning shape the neural networks underlying achievements in literacy, numeracy, and attention. This paper seeks to foster further integration by reviewing the currents state of knowledge relating brain changes to behavior and indicating possible future directions. (shrink)
Children show increasing control of emotions and behavior during their early years. Our studies suggest a shift in control from the brain’s orienting network in infancy to the executive network by the age of 3—4 years. Our longitudinal study indicates that orienting influences both positive and negative affect, as measured by parent report in infancy. At 3—4 years of age, the dominant control of affect rests in a frontal brain network that involves the anterior cingulate gyrus. Connectivity of brain structures (...) also changes from infancy to toddlerhood. Early connectivity of parietal and frontal areas is important in orienting; later connectivity involves midfrontal and anterior cingulate areas related to executive attention and self-regulation. (shrink)
In our view, a central issue in relating brain development to education is whether classroom interventions can alter neural networks related to cognition in ways that generalize beyond the specific domain of instruction. This issue depends upon understanding how neural networks develop under the influence of genes and experience. Imaging studies have revealed common networks underlying many important tasks undertaken at school, such as reading and number skills, and we are beginning to learn how genes and experience work together to (...) shape the development of these networks. The results obtained appear sufficient to propose research-based interventions that could prove useful in improving the ability of children to adjust to the school setting and to acquire skills like literacy and numeracy. (shrink)
Rather than starting with traits and speculating whether selective forces drove evolution in past environments, we propose starting with a candidate gene associated with a trait and testing first for patterns of selection at the DNA level. This can provide limitations on the number of traits to be evaluated subsequently by adaptationism as described by Andrews et al.
Kentridge and Heywood (this issue) extend the concept of metacognition to include unconscious processes. We acknowledge the possible contribution of unconscious processes, but favor a central role of awareness in metacognition. We welcome Shimamura's (this issue) extension of the concept of metacognitive regulation to include aspects of working memory, and its relation to executive attention.
Metacognition refers to any knowledge or cognitive process that monitors or controls cognition. We highlight similarities between metacognitive and executive control functions, and ask how these processes might be implemented in the human brain. A review of brain imaging studies reveals a circuitry of attentional networks involved in these control processes, with its source located in midfrontal areas. These areas are active during conflict resolution, error correction, and emotional regulation. A developmental approach to the organization of the anatomy involved in (...) executive control provides an added perspective on how these mechanisms are influenced by maturation and learning, and how they relate to metacognitive activity. (shrink)
ERP studies have shown modulation of activation in left frontal and posterior cortical language areas, as well as recruitment of right hemisphere homologues, based on task demands. Furthermore, blood-flow studies have demonstrated changes in the neural circuitry of word processing based on experience. The neural areas and time course of language processing are plastic depending on task demands and experience.