Do more intelligent brains retain heightened plasticity for longer in development? A computational investigation

Michael S.C. Thomas
2016 Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience  
Twin studies indicate that the heritability of general cognitive ability - the genetic contribution to individual differences - increases with age. Brant et al. (2013) reported that this increase in heritability occurs earlier in development for low ability children than high ability children. Allied with structural brain imaging results that indicate faster thickening and thinning of cortex for high ability children (Shaw et al., 2006), Brant and colleagues argued higher cognitive ability
more » ... sents an extended sensitive period for brain development. However, they admitted no coherent mechanistic account can currently reconcile the key empirical data. Here, computational methods are employed to demonstrate the empirical data can be reconciled without recourse to variations in sensitive periods. These methods utilized population-based artificial neural network models of cognitive development. In the model, ability-related variations stemmed from the timing of the increases in the non-linearity of computational processes, causing dizygotic twins to diverge in their behavior. These occurred in a population where: (a) ability was determined by the combined small contributions of many neurocomputational factors, and (b) individual differences in ability were largely genetically constrained. The model's explanation of developmental increases in heritability contrasts with proposals that these increases represent emerging gene-environment correlations (Haworth et al., 2010). The article advocates simulating inherited individual differences within an explicitly developmental framework.
doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2016.04.002 pmid:27261925 pmcid:PMC6988599 fatcat:mg5222ywyncdvaffmlzw6z6wre