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Social Reasoning And Brain Development Are Linked In Preschoolers

Date:
July 18, 2009
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
New research shows that the way preschool children understand false beliefs can be linked to particular aspects of brain development. This landmark research may aid in understanding developmental disorders such as autism.

New research at Queen's University shows that the way preschool children understand false beliefs can be linked to particular aspects of brain development. This landmark research may aid in understanding developmental disorders such as autism.

One of the most important ways that preschool children develop socially is by learning how to understand others people's thoughts and feelings. As they mature, most children discover that people's thoughts and feelings about the world and the way the world really is may not agree.

"We know that specific areas of the brain are active when adults think about others' thoughts," says Queen's psychology Professor Mark Sabbagh. "But our findings are the first to show that these specialized neural circuits are there as early as preschool years, and that maturational changes in these areas are associated with preschoolers' abilities to think about their social world in increasingly sophisticated ways."

Researchers compiled EEG results for 29 four-year old children who were engaged in a series of behavioural tasks, and analyzed the activity levels in different regions of the brain when assessing whether another person's thoughts and feelings agree with the way the world really is.

Children with more mature patterns of activity in two specific areas showed more sophisticated understanding of other peoples' false beliefs. By understanding how the typical social brain develops, researchers can investigate what happens when social reasoning is impaired, as occurs in autism.

"Individuals with autism seem to have special difficulty understanding false beliefs, which in turn leads to difficulty with several aspects of social interaction, such as practical aspects of language and deception," adds Professor Sabbagh. "By studying the specific areas of the brain identified in our study, researchers may now have starting points for understanding the neurodevelopmental abnormalities that give underlying autism."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sabbagh, MA, Bowman, LC, Evraire, LE, and Ito, JMB. Neurodevelopmental Correlates of Theory of Mind in Preschool Children. Child Development, Vol. 80, Issue 4

Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "Social Reasoning And Brain Development Are Linked In Preschoolers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090715074928.htm>.
Queen's University. (2009, July 18). Social Reasoning And Brain Development Are Linked In Preschoolers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090715074928.htm
Queen's University. "Social Reasoning And Brain Development Are Linked In Preschoolers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090715074928.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

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