To What Extent Can Cognitive Development Be Understood in Terms of the Specialization of Function in Specific Structures of the Brain?

2510 words 11 pages
To what extent can cognitive development be understood in terms of the specialization of function in specific structures of the brain?

Developmental cognitive neuropsychology seeks to understand and explain the relationship between the human brain and its function. One might consider the extent to which cognitive development can be understood in terms of the specialisation of function in specific structures of the brain. Two contrasting theories of functional specialisation will be presented, debating the means by which brain functions develop and contesting the influence environment bears upon the maturing brain. To enable exploration of this topic, an account of key concepts of brain development will be offered throughout. The
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Whilst both Karmiloff-Smith and Fodor offer explanations for the key concepts of brain development outlined above, the processes of specialisation, self-organisation, and plasticity do not prove the theories of either. Research relating to the operational link between structure and function may offer resolution.

Theory relating to the language function offers support to the hypothesis of modularity proposed by Fodor. The work of Chomsky (1965) put forward arguably the strongest case for genetic innateness of function, this developed further by Pinker (1994). Pinker offers four main arguments in support of his position, which will be considered briefly. The first aspect of Pinker’s argument relates to the formation of Creoles by children raised in communities consisting of pidgin-speaking adults. Pinker refers to Bickerton, who found that children raised in migrant communities which communicated in a non-grammatically organised polyglot of dialects eventually formed their own complete Creole, including complex grammatical structures. Corresponding outcomes were evident in studies of deaf children raised by adults with non-native acquisition of sign-language, who developed grammatically-correct sign-languages. Pinker suggests that this evidences innate language instinct.
Pinker’s second case relates to Chomsky’s


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