Neuroconstructivism: Understanding typical and atypical developmental trajectories
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In this article, we give an overview of neuroconstructivism as a theory of cognitive development. Neuroconstructivism seeks to integrate a Piagetian perspective, that development constitutes a progressive elaboration in the complexity of mental representations via experience-dependent processes, with emerging findings on the nature of functional brain development. It is therefore premised on the view that theories of cognition should be constrained by the properties of the substrate in which cognition is implemented. We identify the origins of neuroconstructivist approaches, and summarise the core tenets of the theory with respect to typical and atypical development. We then consider three aspects of neuroconstructivism. First we address in more detail the idea that theories of cognition should be constrained by evidence from brain function. Second, we consider some of the methodological advances made to improve the analysis of developmental trajectories, particularly with respect to developmental disorders. Third, we give examples of the use of computational approaches to understand mechanisms of development, including connectionist modelling and dynamical systems theory. We finish by considering some of the challenges that lie ahead for neuroconstructivism.
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