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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Principles of brain development

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Throughout much of the 20th century, the major models of brain development were strongly deterministic. It was thought that brain development proceeds via a prescribed blueprint that is somehow innately specified in the organism. Contemporary models present a distinctly different view of both inheritance and brain development. First, we do not inherit blueprints or plans, we inherit genes and the cellular machinery for expressing them. Genes carry essential information for creating proteins, but do not determine biological processes or developmental outcomes; the first cells contain the elements necessary for creating proteins based on the information coded in the nucleotide sequences of genes. Second, brain development is dynamic: the biological state of the brain at any moment is the product of developmental processes that involve an intricate interplay among genes and an ever‐expanding range of environmental factors—from local cellular events to influences from the outside world. In science, models matter. They reflect underlying assumptions about how things can happen, and thus influence the kinds of questions we ask, the kinds of experiments we propose, the therapies we develop, and the educational curricula we construct. The dynamic model of brain development accounts for powerful neurobehavioral effects that can simply not be accommodated by deterministic models. WIREs Cogn Sci 2017, 8:e1402. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1402 This article is categorized under: Neuroscience > Development

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