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How do the structures and functions of children's brains develop? With reference to relevant research evidence, examine the relationship between brain structure and function in the developing brain.

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Introduction

How do the structures and functions of children's brains develop? With reference to relevant research evidence, examine the relationship between brain structure and function in the developing brain. This essay will evaluate the relationship of the structure and function of the human brain specifically in the area of language. The structure of the brain relates to how the brain is physically made-up. The different roles which areas of the brain become responsible for relate to the function of the brain. Initially the prenatal and postnatal brain structure will be considered, followed by possible hypotheses as to how the structure relates to the functions in the brain. Language development will then be used to consider these hypotheses. The prenatal brain development consists of three main sections. Firstly the nerve cells called neurons multiply through cell division. These cells then begin to move to their final resting positions. This occurs in two ways. Active migration, in the cerebral cortex, involves the movement of the new cells past the older cells. In other areas of the brain the migration is passive, with the newer cells pushing the older cells further out. ...read more.

Middle

This is similar to selectionism discussed earlier and provides a reason as to why continual use of a pathway increases the likelihood of the pathway continuing. The whole process in dependant upon each localised neural pathways organising in such a way so that the end result is a coherent 'whole' (Mareschal et al., 2004). If it is the case that the brain self-organises then there are initially millions of different pathways which could achieve a similar result. If viewed from Fodor's point of view this would mean that the genes had already mapped out the best pathway amongst these many choices which is a lot of pathways to have stored in the genetic blueprint. Another aspect in favour of Karmiloff-Smith is that it seems unnecessary for the brain to produce so many possible pathways if the best one is already predetermined by the genetic blueprint unless the system is allowing for plasticity and possible avoidance of damaged areas. Language in most adults is centred in the left-hemisphere of the brain. Pinker (1994) hypothesised that within the brain there was an innate specific area for language, a language seat and that possibly there were special genes which helped connect this area together. ...read more.

Conclusion

An alternative explanation for these results could be that the left-hemisphere is trying to compensate for the damage to the other hemisphere and so language development is delayed while the brain adapts to the other functions it needs to perform. If this second option is the case then again it supports Karmiloff-Smith's ideas and the brain is created with the ability to self-organise and have the ability due to plasticity to adapt to new situations at this age. It is very hard to find unequivocal evidence for either the nativist or constructivist viewpoint. There must need to be some combination of the two in order to explain why in most adults the language seat is situated in the left-hemisphere but that individuals who have suffered damage to the left-hemisphere at a very young age still manage to learn and use language. One possibility is that the brain is created with a predisposition for developing certain skills in certain areas. If that area is not working for some reason then due to the brain's plasticity other neurons can take over this function and form the necessary cognitive module. The evidence seems to indicate that there may initially or possibly permanently be some developmental delay but the brain does seem to be capable of compensating at this young age. ...read more.

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