CoSy project

PARIS 16-18 SEPT 2007

Annette Karmiloff-Smith
Developmental Neurocognition
Lab, Birkbeck College, London, UK.

Slide presentation (PPT)
Slide presentation (PDF)
Title: Built-in modules vs a developmental process of
                 gradual modularisation: Insights from genetic disorders

    In this talk, I will argue that data from typically developing
    infants demonstrate how human brains become progressively
    specialised and localised for specific cognitive functions over
    developmental time, rather than starting out that way. Moreover,
    rather than pointing to genetically specified cognitive-level
    modules as some would claim, data from developmental disorders
    illustrate how despite proficient behaviour on some tasks, cognitive
    and brain processes are atypical involving a lack of progressive
    specialisation and localisation of function. In general, I will
    stress the importance of building full developmental trajectories of
    cognitive functions from the earliest basic-level cross-domain
    processes in infancy through childhood to the emergent higher-level
    domain-specific cognitive processes in the adult endstate.


Atypical epigenesis (PDF)

Developmental Science 10:1 (2007), pp 84 -88
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00568.x
Blackwell Publishing Ltd

    It is becoming increasingly clear that little in development is
    predetermined or permanently fixed. Rather, gene expression is
    activity dependent, and epigenesis is probabilistic. So, the study
    of genetic disorders needs to change from the still widely held view
    that developmental disorders can be accounted for in terms of intact
    versus impaired modules, to one which takes serious account of the
    fact that the infant cortex passes from an initial state of high
    regional interconnectivity to a subsequent state of increasing
    specialization and localization of function. With such early
    interconnectivity in mind, developmental neuroscientists must
    consider the possibility that an early deficit in one part of the
    brain may have subtle effects on other parts of the developing
    brain, even when scores fall 'in the normal range'. In studying
    developmental disorders, it is thus crucial to examine not only
    domains of clear-cut deficit, but also domains of behavioural
    proficiency. Atypical epigenesis may often involve a lack of
    specialization and localization of brain function over developmental
    time, even in cases of behavioural proficiency.


Quick guide: Williams Syndrome (PDF)
Current Biology Vol 7 No 24


Updated: 16 Oct 2007
Maintained: Aaron Sloman