Full course description
In no other period during our development do our brain and behaviour change so fundamentally and quickly as they do during infancy. This poses particular methodological constraints on the design of experiments and the selection of participants, whose ages are typically expressed in weeks. An additional challenge in infancy research is the limitation posed on communication. Questioning and instructions are of no use in infancy research and so there is reliance on indirect measurement methods like habituation paradigms or brain imaging methods. Nevertheless, many fascinating findings have emerged in recent years concerning often unexpected cognitive capacities of infants.
The course commences by addressing specific problems in infancy research and covers the methods used to meet or resolve these problems. Next, biological and behavioural aspects of pre- and postnatal development are discussed, in particular concerning their consequences for later cognitive development. The study of object recognition and object permanence is shown to play a fundamental role in cognitive development during infancy. Individual differences and critical periods are illustrated by a number of developmental disorders. Finally, the early development of social cognition and consciousness is addressed.
- understand the biological and psychological development from conception to four years of age;
- understand and being able to apply methods and techniques in infancy research like indirect measures as habituation, facial expression, expectancy violation, sucking activity and heart rate changes, but also direct recordings of brain activity (EEG, ERP, MEG) and their hemodynamic correlates (f-MRI, NIRS);
- understanding the periods in prenatal development and the effect of teratogens;
- understanding the early development of processes like visual illusions, face recognition, cortical inhibition, mental representation, language and social cognition;
- understanding the underlying mechanisms in developmental conditions like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, prematurity, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, and autism.