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The Constructivist Theory And Brain Development

2425 words - 10 pages

The idea of epigenesis has become well known as an integral part of the constructivist theory which states that neural activity within the brain is largely spontaneous, driven by genetic and molecular instances (Mareschal, D., Johnson, M.H., & Grayson, A., 2004). However, after birth, the neural activity is influenced by sensory and motor experience and the outside environment (Mareschal et al, 2004). Epigenesis is what the constructivist theory is about, the interaction between genes and the environment. A study done by Petersen et al used PET, or positron emission tomography, to understand the responses of native English adult speakers to written stimuli in the form of English words, pseudowords or words that had no meaning but could be sounded out such as bloop, and then nonsense words that were just letters such as cfqex (Mareschal et al, 2004). Petersen et al found that the left visual cortex area of the brain is influenced by particular language environments (Mareschal et al, 2004). Therefore, native English speakers can read English words and they can also distinguish the pseudowords that have no meaning, suggesting that humans can sound out these words (Petersen et al, 1990). This shows that while we have genes that form the left visual cortex, experience in a language environment will help the development of the left visual cortex further and humans will understand how to pronounce sounds even though they do not mean anything. According to Mareschal et al, “The fact that the location of this specialist area is shared by native English speakers suggests that there are similar genetic and molecular processes working in harmony with a similar language environment, to produce a similar structural and functional outcome,” (2004, p. 130).
Additionally, other evidence also shows that the brain goes through epigenesis, or has interactions with both genes and the environment, in a study by Neville. He used ERPs, or scalp recorded event-related potentials, with congenitally deaf participants and found that regions of the temporal lobe had become dominant by visual input (Mareschal et al, 2004). During development, the temporal lobe is most responsible for responding to auditory (hearing) information, however for those who cannot hear, this section was used for a different sense (Mareschal et al, 2004). This shows that the temporal lobe in the brain, although genetically made to hear, had used the child’s sensory experience to become prominently involved with visual processing, or in other words, adapted to the environment that the child was in. If the brain was already made for development and not influenced by the outside world and environment, it would seem to be nearly impossible for a hearing part of the brain to adapt to only visual processing.
Lastly, there was a study done by Mills that tested language acquisition in children, which also showed a link to epigenesis in development. This study concluded that with experience,...

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