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Toward an integrative science of the developing human mind and brain: Focus on the developing cortex


Based on the Huttenlocher lecture, this article describes the need for a more integrative scientific paradigm for addressing important questions raised by key observations made over 2 decades ago. Among these are the early descriptions by Huttenlocher of variability in synaptic density in cortex of postmortem brains of children of different ages and the almost simultaneous reports of cortical volume reductions on MR imaging in children and adolescents. In spite of much progress in developmental neurobiology, developmental cognitive neuroscience, and behavioral and imaging genetics, we still do not know how these early observations relate to each other. It is argued that large scale, collaborative research programs are needed to establish the associations between behavioral differences among children and imaging biomarkers, and to link the latter to cellular changes in the developing brain. Examples of progress and challenges remaining are illustrated with data from the Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition, and Genetics Project (PING).

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