Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscience is emerging as one of the most significant research directions in all of psychology and neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience explores the relationship between mental processing, neural circuitry, and connections, in what neuro-biological functions lie beneath cognitive functions. 

More recently, the scientific interface between cognitive neuroscience, developmental cognitive neuroscience, and human development, including unravelling the mechanisms of the metacognition, is enhancing understanding and providing new insights. Breakthroughs include:

How chemical and electrical signals produced by neurons in the brain give rise to cognitive processes, such as perception, memory, understanding, insight, and reasoning;

How explicit knowledge of events and objects in the world and in personal history, and implicit knowledge of underlying acquired abilities such as language, are represented in the physical structure of the brain; and

How knowledge is accessed and used in thought, perception, and action.

Part of the reason for the renewed interest in cognitive neuroscience comes from advances in methodology that allow hypotheses to be tested more readily than in the past. Also, comparisons of different typical (general population of children) and atypical trajectories of development (disorders such as Williams syndrome and autism) can reveal the extent and limits on neuroplasticity, for example, by bridging data on behavioural changes with developmental neuroanatomy

Advances in tools are enabling this. Such as brain imaging generating ‘functional’ maps of brain activity based on changes in electrical activity, blood flow, and cerebral metabolism. Brain imaging techniques applied to developmental studies include ERPs (event-related potentials), fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging, and NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy). Formal computational modeling of cognitive processes and neural networks is another example of methodological advancement, making a difference in developmental Cognitive Neuroscience research.