Most aspects of human life—from gene expression, to brain structure/function, to underlying linguistic and cognitive processes, through to overt language production and comprehension behaviors—are the result of dynamic developmental processes, in which timing plays a crucial role. So, the study of language acquisition in developmental disorders such as Williams syndrome (WS) needs to change from the still widely held view that developmental disorders can be accounted for in terms of spared versus impaired modules to one that takes serious account of the fact that the infant cortex passes from an initial state of high regional interconnectivity to a subsequent state of progressively increasing specialization and localization of functional brain networks. With such early interconnectivity in mind, developmental neuroscientists must explore the possibility that a small perturbation in low-level processes in one part of the brain very early in development can result in serious deficits in higher-level processes in another part of the brain later in development. Therefore, in profiling developmental disorders of language such as in WS, it is vital to start in early infancy, from which to trace the full trajectory of the interactions of language and other cognitive processes across infancy, toddlerhood, and childhood, through to adolescence and adulthood.
Ching-fen Hsu is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck University of London. She is also affiliated with the Centre for Teacher Education, Huafan University, Taiwan. Dr. Hsu mainly focuses on research into the genetic disorder Williams syndrome. Most of her studies have hitherto been on language since she graduated from the Linguistics Department of Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. Her current interests are to explore brain signatures and functions of developmental disorders with event-related potentials and functional MRI in various cognitive domains, including language and face processing.
Annette Karmiloff-Smith is a professorial research fellow at Birkbeck University of London, and was previously head of the Neurocognitive Development Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London. She obtained her doctorate from Geneva University, where she studied and worked with Piaget. She is a fellow of the British Academy and Academy of Medical Sciences. She was awarded the 1995 BPS Book Award for Beyond Modularity. In 2002 she won the ESF Latsis Prize for Cognitive Sciences. She has honorary doctorates from Louvain and Zhejiang Universities. In 2004, she was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire). In 2006 she occupied the Nico Fridja Chair in Cognitive Science, Amsterdam University. Author of seven books and 200 chapters or articles, as well as booklets for parents on fetal and infant development, her writings have been translated into 17 world languages.
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