Assignment: Psychology Literature Review

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Assignment: Psychology Literature Review

Assignment: Psychology Literature Review


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During the first two years, body size increases dramatically, following organized patterns of growth. The skull also grows rapidly, accommodating large increases in brain size. Neurons in the brain form an elaborate communication system. Myelination improves the efficiency of message transfer. Neurophysiological measures of brain functioning allow researchers to identify relationships between the brain and psychological development.

The cerebral cortex is the largest brain structure, containing the greatest number of neurons and synapses. The two hemispheres specialize in different functions, but brain plasticity allows some recovery of abilities lost to damage in one hemisphere. Stimulation of the brain is essential during sensitive periods, when the brain is developing most rapidly.

The interplay between genetic and environmental factors affects physical growth. Nutrition is crucial to development of the rapidly growing brain and body. Breast milk, which is ideally suited to infants’ needs, is especially important in promoting survival and health in poverty-stricken regions. Recent evidence indicates a relationship between rapid weight gain in infancy and later overweight and obesity. Malnutrition in the early years can lead to permanent stunting of physical growth and of brain development. Parental affection is essential for normal physical growth.


Babies are born with built-in learning capacities that allow them to benefit from experience immediately. Infants are capable of classical and operant conditioning. They also learn through their natural preference for novel stimulation and through imitation.

Large individual differences exist in babies’ rate of motor development. According to dynamic systems theory, each new motor skill is a joint product of central nervous system development, the body’s movement capacities, the child’s goals, and environmental supports for the skill. Reaching, which plays a vital role in infant cognitive development, is affected by early experience and babies’ visual surroundings.

In the first year, babies start to organize sounds into complex patterns, detecting regularities that facilitate later language learning. Infants’ remarkable statistical learning capacity allows them to extract patterns from complex, continuous speech, preparing them to utter their first words around age 12 months. Visual development is supported by maturation of the eye and visual centers in the cerebral cortex. Pattern perception begins at birth; babies’ tendency to look for structure in a pattern stimulus also applies to face perception. Through intermodal perception, babies perceive input from different sensory systems in a unified way. Perception is guided by the discovery of affordances—the action possibilities that a situation allows.


I. BODY GROWTH (pp. 159–161)

A. Changes in Body Size and Muscle–Fat Makeup (pp. 159–160)

1. Birth weight doubles by 5 months of age, triples by 1 year, and quadruples by 2 years.

2. The early rise in body fat peaks at about 9 months. During the second year, most toddlers slim down.

Assignment: Psychology Literature Review

3. Muscle tissue increases slowly during infancy and does not peak until adolescence.

B. Changes in Body Proportions (p. 161)

1. Growth of the head and chest occurs before that of the trunk and legs, following the cephalocaudal trend.

2. Following the proximodistal trend, the arms and legs grow ahead of the hands and feet.

C. Individual and Group Differences (p. 161)

1. In infancy, sex differences and ethnic differences in body size are apparent.

2. The best estimate of a child’s physical maturity is skeletal age, a measure of bone development.


A. Development of Neurons (pp. 161–163)

1. The human brain contains 100 to 200 billion neurons. Between them are synapses—tiny gaps where fibers from different neurons come close together but do not touch.

2. Neurons send messages to one another by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters, which cross the synapse.

3. Neurons that are stimulated by input from the surrounding environment continue to establish new synapses; those that are seldom stimulated soon lose their synapses, in a process called synaptic pruning.

4. About half the brain’s volume is made up of glial cells, which are responsible for myelination, the coating of neural fibers with myelin, which improves the efficiency of message transfer.

5. After neurons and synapses are overproduced, cell death and synaptic pruning sculpt away excess building material to form the mature brain.

B. Measures of Brain Functioning (pp. 163–164)

1. An electroencephalogram (EEG) detects changes in electrical activity in the cerebral cortex.

2. Event-related potentials (ERPs) are used to study responsiveness to stimuli and atypical brain functioning.

3. Neuroimaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), provide precise information about which brain regions are specialized for certain capacities.

4. In near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), infrared light is beamed at regions of the cerebral cortex to measure blood flow and oxygen metabolism while the child attends to a stimulus.

C. Development of the Cerebral Cortex (pp. 164–167)

1. The cerebral cortex, which surrounds the rest of the brain, accounts for 85 percent of the brain’s weight and contains the greatest number of neurons and synapses.

2. Regions of the Cortex

a. The order in which cortical regions develop corresponds to the order in which various capacities emerge in infancy and childhood.

b. The cortical regions with the most extended period of development are the frontal lobes; the prefrontal cortex is responsible for thought.

3. Lateralization and Plasticity of the Cerebral Cortex

a. Lateralization refers to the specialization of functions of the left and right hemispheres of the cerebral cortex.

b. Brain plasticity refers to the ability of areas of the brain to take over functions of a damaged region.

D. Sensitive Periods in Brain Development (pp. 167–169)

1. Human Evidence: Victims of Deprived Early Environments

a. The experiences of children placed in orphanages and later exposed to ordinary family rearing confirm the importance of a generally stimulating environment for psychological development.

b. Neurobiological findings indicate that early, prolonged institutionalization leads to a generalized decrease in activity of the cerebral cortex, especially the prefrontal cortex.

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