Advertisement

Evidence of Mental Plasticity in Humans

Chapter
Part of the The Springer Series on Human Exceptionality book series (SSHE)

Abstract

We have seen evidence of a recent and rapid progressive change in the shape of the human skull – clear and unambiguous evidence of physical plasticity. We have also seen evidence of rapid secular changes in brain volume; change that is far too rapid for evolution to account for and that is consistent with an environmental influence. Insofar as it is possible to infer cause and effect after the fact, physical plasticity is a result of what we call the “medical environment.” This novel concept of the environment subsumes insufficient nutrition, vitamin or nutrient deficiencies, inadequate medical care, unsatisfactory living conditions, environmental pollution, preventable parasites, treatable illnesses, and perhaps even hard physical labor during childhood. Yet so far we have only seen evidence that lead contamination and Giardia infection have an impact on cognition. To make a more compelling case for the medical environment, we must investigate whether other environmental features can also have an effect on cognition. We must carefully weigh the evidence suggesting that the medical environment affects human cognition because a great deal is at stake. Unambiguous evidence that the medical environment harms our children would demand action on our part; ethically, we cannot watch the future of any child tarnished. However, action without evidence is not advisable, since it easily results in resentment and a societal backlash. If social policy is not built upon credible science and careful reasoning, it is a flimsy edifice indeed, vulnerable to a changing economy or shifting priorities.

Keywords

Cognitive Impairment Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Iron Deficiency Ptsd Symptom Foster Care 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. 1.
    Steen, R. G. (1996). DNA & Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior. New York: Plenum. 259 pp.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Flynn, J. (1984). The mean IQ of Americans: Massive gains 1932 to 1978. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 29–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Prifitera, A., Weiss, L. G., & Saklofske, D. H. (1998). The WISC-III in context. In A. Prifitera & D. Saklofske (Eds.), WISC-III Clinical Use and Interpretation: Scientist-Practitioner Perspectives (pp. 1–38). New York: Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Flynn, J. R. (1998). Israeli military IQ tests: Gender differences small; IQ gains large. Journal of Biosocial Science, 30, 541–553.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Randhawa, B. S. (1980). Change in intelligence and academic skills of grades four and seven pupils over a twenty-year period. 22nd International Congress of Psychology. Leipzig, East Germany.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    de Leeuw, J., & Meester, A. C. (1984). Over het intelligence-onderzoek bijde militaire keuringer vanaf 1925 tot heden [Intelligence-as tested at selections for the military service from 1925 to the present]. Mens en Maatschappij, 59, 5–26.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rist, T. (1982). Det Intellektuelle Prestasjonsnivaet i Befolkningen Sett I lys av den Samfunns-Messige Utviklinga [The level of the intellectual performance of the population seen in the light of developments in the community]. Oslo, Norway: Norwegian Armed Forces Psychology Service.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Teasdale, T. W., & Owen, D. R. (2000). Forty-year secular trends in cognitive abilities. Intelligence, 28, 115–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bouvier, U. (1969). Evolution des cotes a quelques tests [Evolution of scores from several tests]. Brussels, Belgium: Belgian Armed Forces, Center for Research into Human Traits.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Elley, W. B. (1969). Changes in mental ability in New Zealand school-children. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 4, 140–155.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Clarke, S. C. T., Nyberg, V., & Worth, W. H. (1978). Technical report on Edmonton Grade III achievement: 1956–1977 comparisons. Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Uttl, B., & Van Alstine, C. L. (2003). Rising verbal intelligence scores: Implications for research and clinical practice. Psychology and Aging, 18, 616–621.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Vroon, P. A., de Leeuw, J., & Meester, A. C. (1984). Correlations between the intelligence levels of fathers and sons. In J. R. Flynn (Ed.), Utrecht, The Netherlands: Department of Theoretical Psychology and History of Psychology.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Colom, R., & Garcia-Lopez, O. (2003). Secular gains in fluid intelligence: Evidence from the culture-fair intelligence test. Journal of Biosocial Science, 35, 33–39.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lynn, R., Hampson, S. L., & Mullineux, J. C. (1987). A long-term increase in the fluid intelligence of English children. Nature, 328, 797.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Daley, T. C., et al. (2003). IQ on the rise: The Flynn effect in rural Kenyan children. Psychological Science, 14, 215–219.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Fuggle, P. W., et al. (1992). Rising IQ scores in British children: Recent evidence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 33, 1241–1247.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Girod, M., & Allaume, G. (1976). L’evolution du niveau intellectuel de la population francaise pendent le dernier quart de siecle [The evolution of the intellectual level of the French population during the last quarter century]. International Review of Applied Psychology, 25, 121–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Steen, R. G. (2007). The Evolving Brain: The Known and the Unknown (p. 427). New York: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Gould, S. J. (1981). The Mismeasurement of Man. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 352 pp.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Detterman, D. K., & Thompson, L. A. (1997). What is so special about special education? The American Psychologist, 52, 1082–1090.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Brand, C. (1987). Intelligence testing: Bryter still and bryter? Nature, 328, 110.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Daley, T. C., et al. (2003). IQ on the rise: The Flynn effect in rural Kenyan children. Psychological Science, 14, 215–219.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Steen, R. G. (1996). DNA & Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior (p. 295). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Flynn, J. R. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations: What IQ tests really measure. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 171–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Carpenter, P. A., Just, M. A., & Shell, P. (1990). What one intelligence test measures: A theoretical account of the processing in the Raven Progressive Matrices Test. Psychological Review, 97, 404–431.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Duncan, J., & Owen, A. M. (2000). Common regions of the human frontal lobe recruited by diverse cognitive demands. Trends in Neurosciences, 23, 475–483.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Flynn, J. R. (1998). Israeli military IQ tests: Gender differences small; IQ gains large. Journal of Biosocial Science, 30, 541–553.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Teasdale, T. W., & Owen, D. R. (2000). Forty-year secular trends in cognitive abilities. Intelligence, 28, 115–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Teasdale, T. W., & Owen, D. R. (1987). National secular trends in intelligence and education: A twenty-year cross-sectional study. Nature, 325, 119–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Johnson, S. (2005). Eveything Bad is Good for You. New York: Penguin GroupGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Pullman, H., Allik, J., & Lynn, R. (2004). The growth of IQ among Estonian schoolchildren from ages 7 to 19. Journal of Biosocial Science, 36, 735–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Slyper, A. H. (2006). The pubertal timing controversy in the USA, and a review of possible causative factors for the advance in timing of onset of puberty. Clinical Endocrinology, 65, 1–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Herman-Giddens, M. E., et al. (1997). Secondary sexual characteristics and menses in young girls seen in office practice: a study from the Pediatric Research in Office Settings Network. Pediatrics, 99, 505–512.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Kaplowitz, P. B., Slora, E. J., Wasserman, R. C., Pedlow, S. E., & Herman-Giddens, M. E. (2001). Earlier onset of puberty in girls: relation to increased body mass index and race. Pediatrics, 108, 347–353.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Sun, S. S., et al. (2002). National estimates of the timing of sexual maturation and racial differences among US children. Pediatrics, 110, 911–919.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Pearce-Duvet, J. M. (2006). The origin of human pathogens: evaluating the role of agriculture and domestic animals in the evolution of human disease. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 81, 369–382.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Fevre, E. M., et al. (2005). A burgeoning epidemic of sleeping sickness in Uganda. Lancet, 366, 745–747.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Cleaveland, S., Laurenson, M. K., & Taylor, L. H. (2001). Diseases of humans and their domestic animals: pathogen characteristics, host range, and the risk of emergence. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 356, 991–999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Diamond, J. (2002). Evolution, consequences, and future of plant and animal domestication. Nature, 418, 700–706.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Scott, R. S., et al. (2005). Dental microwear texture analysis shows within-species diet variability in fossil hominins. Nature, 436, 693–695.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Eshed, V., Gopher, A., & Hershkovitz, I. (2006). Tooth wear and dental pathology at the advent of agriculture: new evidence from the Levant. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 130, 145–159.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Bonfiglioli, B., Brasili, P., & Belcastro, M. G. (2003). Dento-alveolar lesions and nutritional habits of a Roman Imperial age population (1st-4th c. AD): Quadrella (Molise, Italy). Homo, 54, 36–56Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Kerr, N. W. (1998). Dental pain and suffering prior to the advent of modern dentistry. British Dental Journal, 184, 397–399.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Lewis, M. E., Roberts, C. A., & Manchester, K. (1995). Comparative study of the prevalence of maxillary sinusitis in later Medieval urban and rural populations in northern England. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 98, 497–506.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Stiehm, E. R. (2006). Disease versus disease: how one disease may ameliorate another. Pediatrics, 117, 184–191.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Pastori, C., et al. (2006). Long-lasting CCR5 internalization by antibodies in a subset of long-term nonprogressors: a possible protective effect against disease progression. Blood, 107, 4825–33.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Steen, R. G. (2007). The Evolving Brain: The Known and the Unknown. New York: Prometheus Books, pp. 437.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Hunt, S. A. (2006). Taking heart–cardiac transplantation past, present, and future. New England Journal of Medicine, 355, 231–235.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    DiBardino, D. J. (1999). The history and development of cardiac transplantation. Texas Heart Institute Journal, 26, 198–205.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Clark, D. A., et al. (1973). Cardiac transplantation in man: review of first three years’ experience. American Journal of Medicine, 54, 563–576.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Pui, C.-H., et al. (2005). Risk of adverse events after completion of therapy for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 23, 7936–7941.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Glaser, V. P. (2000). Investigator profile: E. Donnell Thomas, M.D. Journal of Hematotherapy and Stem Cell Research, 9, 403–407Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Tamura, T., et al. (2002). Cord serum ferritin concentrations and mental and psychomotor development of children at five years of age. Journal of Pediatrics, 140, 165–170.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    McNeil, D. G. (2006). In raising the world’s IQ, the secret’s in the salt. New York: The New York TimesGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Tai, M. (1997). The devastating consequence of iodine deficiency. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 28(Suppl 2), 75–77.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Fenzi, G. F., et al. (1990). Neuropsychological assessment in schoolchildren from an area of moderate iodine deficiency. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, 13, 427–431.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Aghini-Lombardi, F. A., et al. (1995). Mild iodine deficiency during fetal/neonatal life and neuropsychological impairment in Tuscany. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, 18, 57–62.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Becker, D. V., et al. (2006). Iodine supplementation for pregnancy and lactation-United States and Canada: Recommendations of the American Thyroid Association. Thyroid, 16, 949–951.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Ray, J. G., et al. (2002). Association of neural tube defects and folic acid food fortification in Canada. Lancet, 360, 2047–2048.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Barbaux, S., Plomin, R., & Whitehead, A. S. (2000). Polymorphisms of genes controlling homocysteine/folate meatbolism and cognitive function. Neuroreport, 11, 1133–1136.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 9, 568–578.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Malek, M. A., et al. (2006). Diarrhea- and rotavirus-associated hospitalization among children less than 5 years of age: United States, 1997 and 2000. Pediatrics, 117, 1887–1892.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Patrick, P. D., et al. (2005). Limitations in verbal fluency following heavy burdens of early childhood diarrhea in Brazilian shantytown children. Child Neuropsychology, 11, 233–244.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Lorntz, B., et al. (2006). Early childhood diarrhea predicts impaired school performance. Pediatric Infectious Disease, 25, 513–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Prado, M. S., et al. (2005). Asymptomatic giardiasis and growth in young children; a longitudinal study in Salvador, Brazil. Parasitology, 131, 51–56.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Muniz, P. T., et al. (2002). Intestinal parasitic infections in young children in Sao Paulo, Brazil: Prevalences, temporal trends and associations with physical growth. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, 96, 503–512.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Simsek, Z., Zeyrek, F. Y., & Kurcer, M. A. (2004). Effect of Giardia infection on growth and psychomotor development of children aged 0–5 years. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, 50, 90–93.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. 69.
    Celiksoz, A., et al. (2005). Effects of giardiasis on school success, weight and height indices of primary school children in Turkey. Pediatrics International, 47, 567–571.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Hamvas, A. (2000). Disparate outcomes for very low birth weight infants: genetics, environment, or both? Journal of Pediatrics, 136, 427–428.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Short, E. J., et al. (2003). Cognitive and academic consequences of bronchopulmonary dysplasia and very low birth weight: 8-year-old outcomes. Pediatrics, 112, e359–e366.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Hack, M., et al. (2002). Outcomes in young adulthood for very-low-birth-weight infants. New England Journal of Medicine, 346, 149–157.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Taylor, H. G., et al. (2000). Middle-school-age outcomes in children with very low birthweight. Child Development, 71, 1495–1511.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Hack, M., et al. (1994). School-age outcomes in children with birth weights under 750 g. New England Journal of Medicine, 331, 753–759.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. 75.
    Grunau, R. E., Whitfield, M. F., & Fay, T. B. (2004). Psychosocial and academic characteristics of extremely low birth weight (≤ 800 g) adolescents who are free of major impairment compared with term-born control subjects. Pediatrics, 114, e725–e732.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. 76.
    National Center for Children in Poverty. (2006). Basic facts about low-income children: birth to age 18Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Brooks-Gunn, J., Klebanov, P. K., & Duncan, G. J. (1996). Ethnic differences in children’s intelligence test scores: role of economic deprivation, home enviroment, and maternal characteristics. Child Development, 67, 396–408.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. 78.
    Lupien, S. J., et al. (2001). Can poverty get under your skin? Basal cortisol levels and cognitive function in children from low and high socioeconomic status. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 653–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. 79.
    Smith, J. R., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Klebanov, P. K. (1997). Consequences of living in poverty for young children’s cognitive and verbal ability and early school achievement. In G. J. Duncan & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Consequences of Growing Up Poor (pp. 132–189). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Feldman, M. A., & Walton-Allen, N. (1997). Effects of maternal mental retardation and poverty on intellectual, academic, and behavioral status of school-age children. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 101, 352–364.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. 81.
    Steen, R. G. (1996). DNA & Destiny: Nature and Nurture in Human Behavior (p. 295). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Turkheimer, E., et al. (2003). Socioeconomic status modifies heritability of IQ in young children. Psychological Science, 14, 623–628.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  83. 83.
    Kieffer, D. A., & Goh, D. S. (1981). The effect of individually contracted incentives on intelligence test performance of middle-and lower-SES children. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 37, 175–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. 84.
    Walker, S. P., et al. (2007). Child development: Risk factors for adverse outcomes in developing countries. Lancet, 369, 145–157.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. 85.
    Nelson, C. A., et al. (2007). Cognitive recovery in socially deprived young children: The Bucharest Early Intervention Project. Science, 318, 1937–1940.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. 86.
    Johnson, D. E., et al. (1992). The health of children adopted from Romania. Journal of American Medical Association, 268, 3446–3451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. 87.
    Rutter, M. L., Kreppner, J. M., & O’Connor, T. G. (2001). Specificity and heterogeneity in children’s responses to profound institutional privation. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 97–103.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  88. 88.
    Rutter, M. L., et al. (1998). Developmental catch-up and deficit following adoption after severe global early privation. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39, 465–476.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  89. 89.
    Walker, S. P., et al. (2005). Effects of early childhood psychosocial stimulation and nutritional supplementation on cognition in growth-stunted Jamaican children: Prospective cohort study. Lancet, 366, 1804–1807.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  90. 90.
    Yuan, W., et al. (2006). The impact of early childhood lead exposure on brain organization: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study of language function. Pediatrics, 118, 971–977.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Medical Communications Consultants, LLCChapel HillUSA

Personalised recommendations