Mareschal, D., Johnson, M., Sirios, S., Spratling, M., Thomas, M. S. C., & Westermann, G. (forthcoming). Neuroconstructivism:  How the brain constructs cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 


This book is the first in a two-volume set. Volume 1 lays out a theoretical statement on “neuroconstructivism”, a new approach to thinking about typical and atypical human development. Volume 2 comprises a set of invited chapters illustrating the new theoretical view.


Volume 1: A central tenet of the neuroconstructivist approach is a focus on the factors that influence the emergence of mental representation during postnatal development. The authors propose that the type and content of representations that emerge within a child’s brain are heavily constrained by factors both intrinsic and extrinsic to the developing organism. Among the important (and previously neglected) intrinsic factors are constraints imposed by the interactions between different brain regions (“embrainment”) and by the physical growth and capabilities of the body (“embodiment”). The authors extend this analysis of constrains on representations to extrinsic factors, such as aspects of the species-typical physical and social environment. This analysis leads to some surprising predictions about the content of representations and the nature of their transformation during cognitive growth. The framework we present also transcends the traditional nature-nurture divide.


The approach that the authors advance draws together elements from three sources: (1) the traditional (Piagetian) constructivist approach to cognitive development; (2) the recently emerging field of developmental cognitive neuroscience; and (3) connectionist and neural network modelling. These elements are combined into a new approach that focuses on models of functional brain development. These “mid-level” theories are more heavily constrained by neural evidence than traditional symbolic or connectionist models of cognitive development, but are sufficiently abstract to make contact with cognitive and behavioural data.


Draft outline:


·         Chapter 1: Introduction to neuroconstructivism

·         Chapter 2: Principles of brain development and their extension to computational modelling and developmental robotics.

·         Chapter 3: Embodiment

·         Chapter 4: Embrainment

·         Chapter 5: Ensocialment

·         Chapter 6: The guiding principles of neuroconstructivism

·         Chapter 7: The principles applied to developmental disorders

·         Chapter 8: Case studies within normal development

·         Chapter 9: Case studies within atypical development

·         Chapter 10: Conclusions


Chapters 7 and 9 are available in draft form. Please do not cite without permission. Comments on the current drafts are welcome and should be emailed to Michael Thomas.


MT 23/12/2003