Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience: Childhood (PSYL10135)

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Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience: Childhood (PSYL10135)

Semester 1, Friday 2:10pm-4pm, 7 George Square F21

BPS core area – Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology


What will be covered?

This course covers some specific topics in developmental cognitive neuroscience, focusing on childhood. The goals of the course are to: 

- Introduce important phenomena and mechanisms supporting neurocognitive development.

- Understand the mutual influence among the brain, cognition, and the environment in the dynamic context of development.

- Illustrate these mechanisms in various domains (e.g., perception, learning, memory) in the first part of the course, and study in more depth how they contribute to changes in one specific domain (cognitive control) in the second part of the course.

- Provide students with an introduction to some of the methods used within developmental cognitive neuroscience including basic experimentation, formal theory development, and neuroscientific methods. 

How will it be delivered?

Weekly lectures, mandatory and recommended readings, which will help in the preparation for the mid-term exam and the final essay. In class feedback exercises will be used to check understanding and to develop skills (e.g. quizzes, peer feedback on essay plans/drafts).

Lecture recording policy: Lectures will be recorded.

What skills will be gained?

Through this course, students will practice and sharpen critical analysis, information integration, structuring and presenting arguments, critical analysis, and writing skills. 

Learning Outcomes: 

1. Demonstrate an understanding of recent scientific advances, debates, and challenges regarding brain and cognitive developments

2.  Analyze the developmental mechanisms driving cognitive and neural changes during childhood

3.  Demonstrate an understanding of how cognitive development and brain development are mutually supportive

4.  Analyze the role of experience and the environment in brain and cognitive developments


30% Mid-course timed MCQ test (40 questions, 5 answer options; in class  Friday 1st November)

The mid-course MCQ test is a summative assessment (so the mark will provide numerical feedback as to grade). As the MCQ test is designed to assess foundational knowledge about the course topic, performance on the MCQ test will provide formative feedback as to whether students have a good grasp of the foundations or need to do some more study to consolidate knowledge and provide the necessary basis for more advanced parts of the course to follow.

70% Essay (3000 words; submission deadline Monday 16th December, 12.00 noon). 

At the end of the course, students also complete an essay (coursework). The essay question will be released during the first lecture.The essay question requires critically integrating and reflecting on course materials. They give students an opportunity to show their understanding of how cognitive and brain developments are mutually supportive as well as of the methods used to investigate the developmental trajectories of cognitive abilities. The essay questions are released during the first lecture and students must hand in their essays shortly after the last lecture. 

Relationship Between Assessment and Learning Outcomes

The mid-course MCQ and final essay provide opportunities to assess all 4 learning outcomes.

Q1: The MCQ will assess knowledge and understanding of major advances in developmental cognitive neuroscience. The essay will assess critical evaluation of the scientific advances and challenges related to studying brain and cognitive developments in children.

Q2: MCQs will assess knowledge and understanding of developmental mechanisms driving age-related changes, while the essay will assess critical evaluation and reasoning based on these mechanisms.

Q3: MCQs and essay will assess understanding of the mutual influence between brain and cognitive developments.

Q4: MCQs and essay will assess understanding of the role of experience and the environment in brain and cognitive developments.

Reading resources

Indicative reading:

DCN4: Johnson, M.H., & de Haan, M. (2015). Developmental cognitive neuroscience (4th edition). Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

CCD2: Goswami, U. (2010). Childhood cognitive development (2nd edition). Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Resources list:

**This tentative reading list will be updated throughout the semester** 

Lecture 1

  • CCD2-Chapter 28 (Neuroconstructivism)
  • DCN4-Chapters 1 (The biology of change) and 2 (Methods and populations)
  • Bjorklund, D. F., & Green, B. L. (1992). The adaptive nature of cognitive immaturity. American Psychologist, 47(1), 46-54.

Lectures 2-3:

  • Couperus, J. W., & Nelson, C. A. (2011). Early brain development and plasticity. In K. McCartney, K. & D. Phillips, Blackwell handbook of early child development, pp.85-105. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • DCN4-Chapters 3 (From gene to brain), 4 (Building a brain), and 13 (interactive specialization)
  • Gogtay, N., & Thompson, P. M. (2010). Mapping gray matter development: Implications for typical development and vulnerability to psychopathology. Brain & Cognition, 72, 6-15. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2009.08.009
  • Byrge, L., Sporns, O., & Smith, L. B. (2014). Developmental process emerges from extended brain-body-behavior networks. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(8), 395-403. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.04.010

Lecture 4:

  • Dearing, E., & Berry, D., & Zaslow, M. (2011). Poverty during early childhood. In K. McCartney, K. & D. Phillips, Blackwell handbook of early child development, pp.85-105. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Nelson, C. A. (2007). A neurobiological perspective on early human deprivation. Child Development Perspectives, 1(1), 13-18.

Lecture 5:

  • Nielsen, M. (2012). Imitation, pretend play, and childhood: essential elements in the evolution of human culture? Journal of Comparative Psychology, 126(2), 170-181. doi: 10.1037/a0025168
  • Gopnik, A., Griffiths, T. L., & Lucas, C. G. (2015). When younger learners can be better (or at least more open-minded) than older ones. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(2), 87-92. doi: 10.1177/0963721414556653
  • Haimovitz, K., & Dweck, C. (2017). The origins of children’s growth and fixed mindsets: New research and a new proposal. Child Development. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12955

Lecture 6:

  • CCD2-Chapters 6 (Early memory development) & 13 (Early memory development)
  • DCN4-Chapter 8 (Learning and long-term memory)
  • Gelman, S. H., & Legare, C. H. (2011). Concepts and folk theories. Annual Review of Anthropology, 40, 379-398. doi: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-081309-145822

Lectures 7-8-9:

  • Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135–168. 10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750.
  • Chevalier, N. (2015). Executive function development: Making sense of the environment to behave adaptively. Current Directions in Psychological Sciences, 24(5), 363-368. doi: 10.1177/0963721415593724
  • Munakata, Y. E., Snyder, H. R., & Chatham, C. H. (2012). Developing cognitive control: Three key transitions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 71–77. doi:10.1177/0963721412436807
  • DCN4-Chapter 10 (Prefrontal cortex, working memory, and decision-making)

Lecture 10:

  • DCN4-Chapter 12 (Educational neuroscience)
04/09/2019 - 1:10pm