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What can developmental disorders tell us about the neurocomputational constraints that shape development? the case of Williams syndrome

Karmiloff-Smith, Annette and Thomas, Michael S.C. (2003) What can developmental disorders tell us about the neurocomputational constraints that shape development? the case of Williams syndrome. Development and Psychopathology 15 (4), pp. 969-990. ISSN 0954-5794.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579403000476

Abstract

The uneven cognitive phenotype in the adult outcome of Williams syndrome has led some researchers to make strong claims about the modularity of the brain and the purported genetically determined, innate specification of cognitive modules. Such arguments have particularly been marshaled with respect to language. We challenge this direct generalization from adult phenotypic outcomes to genetic specification and consider instead how genetic disorders provide clues to the constraints on plasticity that shape the outcome of development. We specifically examine behavioral studies, brain imaging, and computational modeling of language in Williams syndrome but contend that our theoretical arguments apply equally to other cognitive domains and other developmental disorders. While acknowledging that selective deficits in normal adult patients might justify claims about cognitive modularity, we question whether similar, seemingly selective deficits found in genetic disorders can be used to argue that such cognitive modules are prespecified in infant brains. Cognitive modules are, in our view, the outcome of development, not its starting point. We note that most work on genetic disorders ignores one vital factor, the actual process of ontogenetic development, and argue that it is vital to view genetic disorders as proceeding under different neurocomputational constraints, not as demonstrations of static modularity.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Science > Psychological Sciences
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2010 15:10
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:33
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/2885

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