Herschkowitz N, Kagan J, Zilles K. Neurobiological bases of behavioral development in the second year. Neuropediatrics. 1999 Oct;30(5):221-30. Review. PubMed PMID: 10598832.
We discuss selected psychological competences that develop and become noticeable between one and two years of age and are temporally correlated to structural, biochemical and physiological changes in the brain. The psychological competences are: Language development, a sense of “right” and “wrong”, self-awareness, and the ability to make inferences. The accompanying changes in the brain involve the prefrontal cortex, language-related cortical areas, hippocampus, cerebellum, basal ganglia and an increase in the connectivity of the network. Of special interest are the maturational changes in layers III-IV of the prefrontal cortex. Layer III is the origin and target of callosal and commissural axons linking the two hemispheres and the target of associational axons linking ipsilateral areas within each hemisphere. Layer IV, the target for axons from the mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus, conveys information from other associational cortices, cerebellum, basal ganglia, and the reticular and limbic systems. In the second year, intensive dendritic growth and synaptogenesis in these layers increase the linking of these two layers and form a neural basis for a more efficient convergence and integration of information from the two hemispheres, which are functionally asymmetric. It is our hypothesis that these changes, together with the maturational changes in the cortico-subcortical network, are a basis for the observed emergence of the psychological competences. We are aware that temporal correlations cannot prove firm causal relationships. However, knowledge of these correlations is useful in generating specific hypotheses that can be tested directly.
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