Book - Brain and behavioural development

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Dickerson JWT. and McGurk H. Brain And Behavioural Development. (1982) Blackie & Son Ltd., Glasgow.

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This historic 1982 book edited by Dickerson and McGurk describes the development of the brain.

Modern Notes: neural

Brain and Behavioural Development - 1982: 1 Neural Development | 2 Comparative Neural | 3 Malnutrition | 4 Hormones and Growth Factors | 5 Cortical Activity | 6 Functional Asymmetry | 7 Plasticity | 8 Sex Differences

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Brain and Behavioural Development

DickersonMcGurk1982 title page.jpg

Interdisciplinary perspectives on structure and function

Edited by

John W. T. Dickerson, B.Sc, Ph.D.

Professor of Human Nutrition University of Surrey


Harry McGurk, B.A., Ph.D.

Senior Lecturer in Psychology University of Surrey

Surrey University Press

Published by Surrey University Press A member of the Blackie Group Bishopbriggs, Glasgow and Furnival House, 14-18 High Holborn, London

© 1982 Blackie & Son Ltd. First published 1982

Blackie and Son was a publishing house in Glasgow, Scotland and London, England from 1890 to 1991.

ISBN 0-903384-27-2


  • Martin Berry
    • Reader in Anatomy, Department of Anatomy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2XA.
  • John W. T. Dickerson
    • Professor of Human Nutrition, Department of Biochemistry, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH.
  • Miranda Hughes
    • Lecturer in Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT.
  • Harry McGurk
    • Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH.
  • A. Merat
    • School of Sciences, Mashad University, Mashad, Iran.
  • Brian L. G. Morgan
    • Assistant Professor of Nutrition, Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, U.S.A.
  • Denis M. Parker
    • Lecturer in Psychology, Department of Psychology, King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB9 1FX, Scotland.
  • Cherry Thompson
    • Lecturer in Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH.
  • Andrew W. Young
    • Lecturer in Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Lancaster, Bailrigg, Lancaster LAI 4YR.
  • H. K. M. Yusuf
    • Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Department of Biochemistry, University of Dacca.



  1. The development of the human nervous system Martin Berry
    1. Introduction
    2. Neurogenesis
    3. Migration
    4. Differentiation of neuronal processes
    5. Foliation
    6. Development of the cerebellum
    7. Cerebral neocortex
    8. Hippocampus
    9. Diencephalon
    10. Brain stem and spinal cord
    11. Conclusions
    12. References
  2. Comparative aspects of brain growth and development Brian L. G. Morgan and John W. T. Dickerson
    1. Introduction
    2. Cellular growth
    3. Brain lipids
    4. Brain metabolism
    5. Animal models and human brain development
    6. References
  3. Chapter 3. Effects of malnutrition on brain growth and development J. W. T. Dickerson, A. Merat and H. K. M. Yusuf
    1. Introduction
    2. Brain size
    3. Brain composition
    4. Cellular growth
    5. Effects of intra-uterine undernutrition
    6. Effects of postnatal malnutrition
    7. Myelin lipids and myelination
    8. Effects of intra-uterine undernutrition
    9. Effects of postnatal malnutrition
    10. Malnutrition and synaptic development
    11. Malnutrition and energy metabolism
    12. Fatty acids and brain development
    13. Malnutrition and brain protein
    14. Amino acids and neurotransmitters
    15. Brain function—behaviour and intelligence
    16. References
  4. Effects of hormonal and other factors on growth and development Brian L. G. Morgan
    1. Introduction
    2. Thyroid hormones
    3. Neonatal hypothyroidism—animal studies
    4. Hypothyroidism and behaviour
    5. Hypothyroidism in primates
    6. Hypothyroidism (cretinism) in children
    7. Hyperthyroidism
    8. Other hormones - Corticosteroids and brain growth, Growth hormone, Insulin, Nerve growth factor (NGF)
    9. Environment—hormones and behaviour
    10. Toxic substances - Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cannabis and development, Smoking, Drugs, Lead
    11. Conclusions
    12. References
  5. Cortical activity in behavioural development Cherry Thompson
    1. Introduction
    2. The EEG in the young premature infant
    3. The middle months of the premature infant
    4. Changes after birth—the first year of life
    5. Changes into childhood
    6. Conclusions
    7. References
  6. Asymmetry of cerebral hemispheric function during development Andrew W. Young
    1. Introduction
    2. Organization of function in the adult brain
    3. The concept of lateralization
    4. Developmental studies
    5. Neuroanatomical asymmetries
    6. Noninvasive methods
    7. Auditory presentation
    8. Visual presentation
    9. Tactile presentation
    10. Studies of asymmetries in infants for processing auditorily or visually presented stimuli
    11. Asymmetries of motor control and lateral preferences
    12. Studies of the consequences of cerebral injury at different ages
    13. Age and the extent of recovery from unilateral cerebral injuries
    14. The claim of the equipotentiality of the cerebral hemispheres for language acquisition
    15. Differences across age in the nature of aphasic symptoms
    16. The possible involvement of the right hemisphere in the early stages of language acquisition
    17. Overview and conclusions
    18. References
  7. Determinate and plastic principles in neuropsychological development Denis M. Parker
    1. Introduction
    2. The context within which damage occurs during development
    3. Electrophysiological and neuroanatomical maturation
    4. Neuropsychological evidence concerning functional maturation
    5. Interactive effects and their interpretation
    6. The consequences of early brain damage
    7. Global and specific processing
    8. Aphasia in children
    9. The plasticity of the developing brain
    10. Conclusions
    11. References
  8. Sex differences in brain development: process and effects Miranda Hughes
    1. Introduction
    2. Pre-natal sex differences in development
    3. Hormonal action
    4. Sex differences in brain differentiation
    5. Behavioural effects of sex differences in brain differentiation (i) Sexual behaviour (ii) Non-sexual behaviour
    6. Hormonal anomalies in human development
    7. Personality
    8. Cognitive ability
    9. Sex differences in post-natal brain development
    10. How different are sex differences?
    11. Towards a model of human sex differences
    12. Summary
    13. References


The study of structural and functional relationships between brain growth and behavioural development in the human subject is an area of enquiry which cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Biologists, nutritionists, paediatricians, physiologists, psychologists—all have overlapping interests and perspectives on the topic. Yet here, as in so many other areas of research enquiry, the predominant tendency is for investigators to work within the constraints imposed by the concepts and methodologies drawn from a single discipline. Similarly, published material on the topic tends to be written from the viewpoint of a particular disciplinary approach and the field is impoverished thereby.

This volume has been prepared in recognition of the essentially interdisciplinary nature of studies. It is the outcome of collaboration between anatomists, biologists, developmental psychologists, nutritionists and psychophysiologists. Each contributor has made important and original contributions to the research area with which the book is concerned. Moreover, an interdisciplinary perspective has informed these authors’ approaches to their own research and is reflected in the contributions presented here.

The volume is not intended as a comprehensive text on the cross-disciplinary study of processes. Rather, our aim has been to identify a number of active research areas in this general domain within which attempts are being made to integrate our understanding of changes in anatomical and biochemical structure and functions on the one hand with our knowledge of developmental changes in the structure and function of behaviour on the other. Further, each contributor was invited to elaborate his own documented perspective on a topic area rather than to passively review the literature. It has been our intention also that contributors should reflect not only the academic and theoretical significance of particular research problems but also their significance for the development of remediation strategies to counteract the effects of disease, injury and adverse environmental circumstances on the development of brain and behaviour.

The readership to which the book is addressed includes advanced undergraduate and graduate students in biology, clinical and developmental psychology, nutrition and physiology; it will be of interest also to practising paediatricians and nutritionists and to other professionals involved in the child health services. The first four chapters are primarily concerned with aspects of brain structure—anatomical and biochemical—and with the impact of nutritional deficiency, hormone imbalance and toxic agents upon these developing structures; Chapters 5-8 explore relationships between behavioural functions and the structure of the developing brain.

Historically, descriptive anatomy preceded elucidation of physiological processes, and the first chapter sets the scene with a discussion of the development of the human nervous system from an anatomical viewpoint. Distinct but overlapping phases of growth occur, culminating in neuronal and glial differentiation. Development is completed by the growth of the complex dendritic tree, the linking of the dendrites through the development of synapses and the elaboration of the myelin sheath which results in the insulation of nerves and makes possible the efficient passage of nervous impulses. These processes are described in various regions of the central nervous system, including the cerebral and cerebellar cortices, the basal ganglia, the brain stem and the spinal cord. Development is a dynamic process and, as with other aspects of the subject, limitations in the availability of material and in the applicability of certain methods make it necessary to draw upon animal studies in order to make reasonable inferences about the processes in the human brain.

Inferences and extrapolation of this kind are necessary when we try to understand the possible effects of adverse environmental factors on the growth of the human brain. Animal experimentation, then, has necessarily made a considerable contribution to our knowledge. There are, however, considerable differences between experimental animals and man. Not least of these is the time- scale over which developmental changes occur. Moreover, the stage of development of the brain in the newborn differs from one species to another. This is clearly of considerable importance in relation to the timing of the brain growth spurt which we now know is a once-and-for-all process. It is therefore of fundamental importance to consider the comparative aspects of brain growth and development. This theme is developed from a biochemical viewpoint in the second chapter; which includes some discussion of the important concept of ‘critical periods’. These are strictly age-related and species-specific. Moreover, there is not one critical period but many, related to the growth of the different structural entities in the brain which may be expressed in anatomical and biochemical terms, and to these are related, in ways that we do not understand, critical periods of behavioural and psychological development.

The brain grows and develops rapidly early in life and this is when the various processes are most vulnerable to the nutritional environment. Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is the most prevalent single factor which might adversely affect brain growth and development and permanently interfere with the achievement of genetic potential. It has been estimated that some 100 million of the world’s children are affected to varying degrees and these are mostly in the developing countries. An understanding of the ways in which malnutrition interacts with other factors in the environment is a necessary basis for the prevention of the permanent stigmata of the condition in the children themselves and also to the future eradication of the condition as a result of better education and opportunities. To provide schools and extensive training programmes without first making sure that children have the capacity to benefit from the facilities makes bad political sense. The importance of an understanding of the effects of malnutrition on brain development is such that an entire chapter has been devoted to its consideration.

Malnutrition of the kind discussed in Chapter 3 is very unlikely to occur in Western societies. However, normal growth and development depends also upon the endogenous regulation of synthetic and metabolic processes in which hormones play a central role. In the neonate, a deficiency of thyroxine in particular results in a distortion of brain growth and development and results in cretinism. Similarly, an excess of corticosteroids during the period of the brain growth spurt produces a distortion of development which is in some ways similar to that produced by protein-energy malnutrition. Growth and development is also affected by the activity of enzymes and these activities are regulated not only by the amounts of enzyme proteins but also by their cofactors, vitamins and trace elements. These biological factors along with a number of pollutants and toxic materials are discussed in Chapter 4.

Technological advances during the past thirty years have greatly facilitated the recording of the brain’s electrical activity, via surface electrodes, from the scalp of human subjects. Recording methods are now relatively simple and safe, and electroencephalographic (EEG) data have greatly informed our understanding of the relationship between bioelectrical events within the cortex on the one hand and change in behavioural state on the other. Similarly, investigations of cortical-evoked potentials consequent upon sensory stimulation have increased our understanding of brain function during perceptual, attentional and other cognitive activities. All this is with respect, primarily, to the mature organism. Chapter 5 is devoted to consideration of the contribution which electrophysiological recording techniques can make to our understanding of brain activity and behaviour in the developing organism. The author relates structural changes in the cortex of the pre-term, full-term and developing infant to changes in electrophysiological activity and in behaviour. The value of EEG developmental milestones for diagnostic and prognostic purposes during early infancy is advocated, though their use as indices of cognitive development during later stages of growth is seriously questioned.

The fact that the brain comes in two more or less symmetrical halves, that these halves are contralaterally organized with respect to their control over body activity, and that humans are predominantly right-handed have led to speculations and controversy over the relative dominance of the right and left hemispheres in the control of specific psychological functions. Traditionally, the left hemisphere has been recognized as dominant in the mediation of speech and language, and the right hemisphere as dominant in visual-spatial tasks. Too often, however, this relative dominance has been interpreted as if man had two brains, one adapted for verbal, the other for perceptual functioning. Such oversimplification of roles distorts what is known about the extent to which duplication and symmetry of function exists and the extent to which the two hemispheres work together as an integrated system. Overelaboration of the functional asymmetry of the two halves of the adult brain has also tended, on one hand, to misinform the kind of question which has been asked about the ontogeny of hemispheric specialization and, on the other to a confounding of questions about equipotentiality with questions about the capacity of the cortex for reorganization following injury. These and related issues are addressed in the sixth chapter of this volume where the author argues that both symmetric and asymmetric organization of hemispheric functions are characteristic of the human brain, at least from the beginning of postnatal life. On this basis, it is argued that the basic developmental problem should be reformulated in terms of how, during their acquisition process, skills that are being newly learned are integrated with functions that are already symmetrically or asymmetrically organized.

Two facts about the developing brain have long been acknowledged. Firstly, as previously indicated, the immature brain is more vulnerable to environmental insult than is the mature brain. Secondly, if injury or damage does occur, its effects on the developing brain are more diffuse and less specific than on the adult brain. The latter, together with the child’s greater potentiality for at least partial recovery of functions disrupted through injury, attests to the functional plasticity of the developing compared with the mature brain. How the diffuse effects of injury are mediated in terms of brain structure and function, and how the potential for recovery is to be interpreted, are issues of considerable controversy. Resolution of the issues involved is of theoretical and practical importance. Discussion and evaluation of the relevant evidence forms the subject matter of Chapter 7; implications for effective remediation regimens are considered.

As in so many other domains, analysis of the relative contributions of nature and nurture to the development of sex differences in behaviour has been the occasion of much polemical discussion. Chapter 8 is devoted to discussion of structural processes and mechanisms which might underlie sex differences, in particular behavioural and cognitive functions. Hormonal influence on brain activity and sex differences in brain differentiation feature large in the discussion. It should be recognized, however, that investigation of potential relationships between sex differences in behaviour implies no commitment to biological determination. Rather, such evaluation is necessary to inform our understanding of the raw material upon which education and culture may operate to influence behavioural expression in a diversity of fashions. As the author argues, brain differences between male and female may well underlie the predilections for the two sexes to act in particular ways, but they cannot be construed as constituting a biological imperative for the development of psychological sex differences.

We should like to thank our contributors for their patient cooperation throughout the various stages of preparation of the volume. Our thanks are due also to Edna Springham, Roslyn Gilbert and Mary Lewis for their assistance in preparation of the typescript.

John W. T. Dickerson Harry McGurk

Dickerson JWT. and McGurk H. Brain And Behavioural Development. (1982) Blackie & Son Ltd., Glasgow.

Brain and Behavioural Development - 1982: 1 Neural Development | 2 Comparative Neural | 3 Malnutrition | 4 Hormones and Growth Factors | 5 Cortical Activity | 6 Functional Asymmetry | 7 Plasticity | 8 Sex Differences

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2021, March 7) Embryology Book - Brain and behavioural development. Retrieved from

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