Links to Brain Development

The finding by Thatcher, Walker, and Giu-dice (1987) of brain growth spurts that appeared to correspond to stage transitions in cognitive development stimulated considerable interest in the explanatory potential of neural maturation. One of the important landmarks in infant development is the A not-B error: If infants are shown a toy hidden at A several times and allowed to retrieve it and then see it hidden at B, before approximately 12 months of age they tend to search for it at A. Studies by Diamond (1988) and Goldman-Rakic (1987) showing the link between frontal lobe function and the A not-B error were important stimuli to work on infant brain development. Case (1992a, 1992b) and Fischer (1987; Fischer & Rose, 1996) have drawn interesting parallels between cognitive development and the growth of connections between the frontal lobes and other brain regions. Robin and Holyoak (1995) and Waltz et al. (1999) have also drawn attention to the role of the frontal cortex in processing relations of the kind described by Halford and his collaborators (Halford, 1993; Halford, Bain et al., 1998; Halford, Wilson, & Phillips, 1998). In a different context, Rudy, Keith, and Georgen (1 993) present evidence that configu-ral learning (e.g., conditional discrimination, in which a cue-response link is reversed on change of background) depends on maturation of the hippocampus.

At a more general level, Quartz and Se-jnowski (1997) have argued that synaptic growth, axonal arborization, and dendritic development play a role in processing capacity increase with age. They also point out that neural plasticity would cause capacity to increase as a function of experience. This implies that the issue of whether cognitive development depends on capacity, knowledge, or both may need to be redefined. It might be that cognitive development depends on growth of capacity, which is at least partly produced by experience.

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