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How Can Development and Plasticity Contribute to Understanding Evolution of the Human Brain?

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889198894 Year: Pages: 130 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-889-4 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Neurology
Added to DOAB on : 2016-01-19 14:05:46
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Humans usually attribute themselves the prerogative of being the pinnacle of evolution. They have large brains with many billion neurons and glial cells, trillions of synapses and besides all, a plastic hardware that may change either subtly or strongly in response to the external environment and internal, mental commands. With this hypercomplex apparatus, they are capable of very sophisticated inward computations and outward behaviors that include self-recognition, metacognition, different forms of language expression and reception, prediction of future events, planning and performing long streams of motor acts, subtle emotional feelings, and many other surprising, almost unbelievable properties. The main challenge for research is: how do we explain this gigantic achievement of evolution? Is it a direct consequence of having acquired a brain larger than our primate ancestors, with huge numbers of computational units? Would it be determined by a particular way these units came to relate to each other, building up logic circuits of powerful capacities? What along development has “made the difference” for the construction of such a complex brain machine? How much of this complexity is innate, how much is sculpted by influence of the external world, by social interaction with our human fellows, and by the history of our own mental trajectory along life? Many specific questions can be asked (albeit not necessarily answered so far) to this purpose: (1) which genomic characteristics make us unique among primates? (2) which of developmental events during and beyond embryogenesis define our brain – prolonged neurogenesis? permanent circuit (re)formation? dynamic synaptogenesis? regressive sculpting of the hardware? all of them? (3) is there anything special about plasticity of the human brain that allows us to build the exquisite individual variability characteristic of our brains? Neuroscience is in need of a synthesis. Perhaps associating concepts derived from developmental neurobiology with evolutionary morphology and physiology, together with those that photograph the human brain in action under influence of the external world, would turn on a light at the end of the tunnel, and we would be able to understand what humans do have that is special – if anything – to explain our success in the Earth.

Magnetoencephalography: an emerging neuroimaging tool for studying normal and abnormal human brain development

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889196586 Year: Pages: 209 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-658-6 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Science (General) --- Neurology
Added to DOAB on : 2016-08-16 10:34:25
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Research on the human brain development has seen an upturn in the past years mostly due to novel neuroimaging tools that became available to study the anatomy and function of the developing brain. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) are beginning to be used more frequently in children to determine the gross anatomy and structural connectivity of their brain. Functional MRI and Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) determine the hemodynamics and electroencephalography (EEG) the electrophysiological functions of the developing human brain. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) complements EEG as the only other technique capable of directly measuring the developing brain electrophysiology. Although MEG is still being used relatively rarely in pediatric studies, the recent development in this technology is beginning to demonstrate its utility in both basic and clinical neurosciences. MEG seems to be quite attractive for pediatric use, since it measures the human brain activity in an entirely passive manner without possessing any conceivable risk to the developing tissue. MEG sessions generally require minimal patient preparation, and the recordings are extremely well tolerated from children. Biomagnetic techniques also offer an indirect way to assess the functional brain and heart activity of fetuses in humans in utero by measuring the magnetic field outside the maternal abdomen. Magnetic field produced by the electrical activity in the heart and brain of the fetus is not attenuated by the vernix, a waxy film covering its entire skin. A biomagnetic instrument specifically designed for fetal studies has been developed for this purpose. Fetal MEG studies using such a system have shown that both spontaneous brain activity and evoked cortical activity can be measured from outside the abdomen of pregnant mothers. Fetal MEG may become clinically very useful for implementation and evaluation of intervention programs in at-risk populations. Biomagnetic instruments have also been developed for specifically measuring the brain activity in newborns, infants and older children. MEG studies have shown the usefulness of MEG for localizing active regions in the brain and also for tracking the longitudinal maturation of various sensory systems. Studies of pediatric patients are beginning to show interesting functional pathology in autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other types of neurological and psychiatric disorders (Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, Tourette syndrome, hearing deficits, childhood migraine). In this eBook, we compile the state of the art MEG and other neuroimaging studies focused on pediatric population in both health and disease. We believe a review of the recent studies of human brain development using MEG is quite timely, since we are witnessing advances not only in the instrumentation optimized for the pediatric population, but also in the research based on various types of MEG systems designed for both human fetuses in utero and neonates and older children.

Neuroanatomy of Human Brain Development

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889451203 Year: Pages: 221 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-120-3 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2017-07-06 13:27:36
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The human brain is extraordinary complex and yet its origin is a simple tubular structure. Rapid and dramatic structural growth takes place during the fetal and perinatal period. By the time of birth, a repertoire of major cortical, subcortical and white matter structures resembling the adult pattern has emerged, however there are continued maturational changes of the gray matter and white matter throughout childhood and adolescence and into adulthood. The maturation of neuronal structures provides the neuroanatomical basis for the acquisition and refinement of cognitive functions during postnatal development. Histological imaging has been traditionally dominant in understanding neuroanatomy of early brain development and still plays an unparalleled role in this field. Modern magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques including diffusion MRI, as noninvasive tools readily applied to in vivo brains, have become an important complementary approach in revealing the detailed brain anatomy, including the structural connectivity between brain regions. In this research topic, we presented the most recent investigations on understanding the neuroanatomy and connectivity of human brain development using both histology and MRI. Modern advances in mapping normal developmental brain anatomy and connectivity should elucidate many neurodevelopmental disorders, ranging from rare congenital malformations to common disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is a prerequisite for better diagnosis and treatment of these currently poorly understood diseases.

Chemicals in the Environment and Brain Development: Importance of Neuroendocrinological Approaches

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889451722 Year: Pages: 153 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88945-172-2 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Internal medicine --- Medicine (General) --- Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2017-08-28 14:01:09
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Mounting evidence shows that increasing numbers of children are being diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders, and it is clear that this increase cannot be explained by genetic background alone. A number of studies, including epidemiological studies, have found an association between in-utero and childhood exposure to certain chemicals, such as endocrine disruptors, psychoactive pharmaceuticals, volatile organic chemicals, persistent organic compounds and heavy metals, and children’s brain development. Yet, the mechanisms by which these chemicals impair brain development and function are not fully understood. In addition, little is known about how these chemicals enter and accumulate in the brain. Experimental approaches are essential to understand how those harmful chemicals enter children’s brain and pose discrete effects on specific brain sites. These approaches include the following: improvement of technologies for the detection and measurement of neuroendocrinological and behavioral changes in animal models: development of analytical methods for the identification and quantification of chemicals and their metabolites in the brain; development of in vitro cell line assays; and imaging technologies to illustrate cellular functions. In this research topic, we collected articles that provide state-of-the-art science and technologies that can help us identify environmental chemicals that influence brain development. We also included articles that lead to a better understanding of the actions and dynamics of these chemicals. The articles in this research topics supplied novel information about harmful endpoints of environmental chemicals. The reviews demonstrated the typical and novel interactions between environmental chemicals and the developing brain. We believe that these studies would lead to further understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders caused by environmental factors.

Development of executive function during childhood

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889198009 Year: Pages: 457 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-800-9 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Psychology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-04-07 11:22:02
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Executive function refers to the goal-oriented regulation of one’s own thoughts, actions, and emotions. Its importance is attested by its contribution to the development of other cognitive skills (e.g., theory of mind), social abilities (e.g., peer interactions), and academic achievement (e.g., mathematics), and by the consequences of deficits in executive function (which are observed in wide range of developmental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism). Over the last decade, there have been growing interest in the development of executive function, and an expanding body of research has shown that executive function develops rapidly during the preschool years, with adult-level performance being achieved during adolescence or later. This recent work, together with experimental research showing the effects of interventions targeting executive function, has yielded important insights into the neurocognitive processes underlying executive function. Given the complexity of the construct of executive function, however, and the multiplicity of underlying processes, there are often inconsistencies in the way that executive function is defined and studied. This inconsistency has hampered communication among researchers from various fields. This Research Topic is intended to bridge this gap and provide an opportunity for researchers from different perspectives to discuss recent advances in understanding childhood executive function. Researchers using various methods, including, behavioral experiments, neuroimaging, eye-tracking, computer simulation, observational methods, and questionnaires, are encouraged to contribute original empirical research. In addition to original empirical articles, theoretical reviews and opinions/perspective articles on promising future directions are welcome. We hope that researchers from different areas, such as developmental psychology, educational psychology, experimental psychology, neuropsychology, neuroscience, psychiatry, computational science, etc., will be represented in the Research Topic.

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