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Children require adult caregivers to survive and thrive. In the absence of committed and nurturing care, children face increased risk for a number of difficulties, including internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, cognitive and language deficits, and social difficulties. Recent changes in the U.S. immigration system have resulted in a large number of children removed from their parents, drawing increased scrutiny to the impact of parent-child separation and best practices for caring for children who have been separated. Drawing from work on children exposed to institutional care, as well as research on children separated from caregivers due to validated abuse and neglect, it is clear that children belong in families that are safe and supportive and that some forms of substitute care (i.e., institutional or group-based care) are insufficient to meet children's needs. However, it is difficult to know the specific impact of parent-child separation on child outcomes given that stressors often cluster and pre-separation experiences and post-separation placements also contribute to the experience of separation from a parent and subsequent functioning. Attempts to parse the specific contributions of each separation-related stressor, examining sensitive periods in the impact of separation, studying the mechanisms by which separations affect children, and consideration of the broader social and political context are useful future directions for moving this area of study forward. We must also more fully probe the roles that caregivers play in child development. Lastly, we must endeavor to cease practices of removing children from loving and capable caregivers and, when necessary, provide support to parents and children who have experienced separation.
Sensory processing differences, including responses to auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli, are ideal targets for early detection of neurodevelopmental risks, such as autism spectrum disorder. However, most existing studies focus on the audiovisual paradigm and ignore the sense of touch. In this paper, we present a multisensory delivery system that can deliver audio, visual, and tactile stimuli in a controlled manner and capture peripheral physiological, eye gaze, and electroencephalographic response data. The novelty of the system is the ability to provide affective touch. In particular, we have developed a tactile stimulation device that delivers tactile stimuli to infants with precisely controlled brush stroking speed and force on the skin. A usability study of 10 3-20 month-old infants was conducted to investigate the tolerability and feasibility of the system. Results have shown that the system is well tolerated by infants and all the data were collected robustly. This paper paves the way for future studies charting the sensory response trajectories in infancy.
This commentary presents highlights from the seven articles in this volume, along with a synthesis of take-home points that can be used to inform policy and practice. Across each article there is a story of both successes and the challenges of ongoing work that seeks to enhance children's development in diverse and challenging environments across the globe. Although the topics covered in this volume range from development of early self-regulation and executive function to the use of technology to aid literacy acquisition in remote areas, each points to the need for systems-level coordination and sustained commitment to reach children at risk.
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
It has been proposed that early differences in sensory responsiveness arise from atypical neural function and produce cascading effects on development across domains. This longitudinal study prospectively followed infants at heightened risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) based on their status as younger siblings of children diagnosed with ASD (Sibs-ASD) and infants at relatively lower risk for ASD (siblings of typically developing children; Sibs-TD) to examine the developmental sequelae and possible neurophysiological substrates of a specific sensory response pattern: unusually intense interest in nonsocial sensory stimuli or "sensory seeking." At 18 months, sensory seeking and social orienting were measured with the Sensory Processing Assessment, and a potential neural signature for sensory seeking (i.e., frontal alpha asymmetry) was measured via resting state electroencephalography. At 36 months, infants' social symptomatology was assessed in a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. Sibs-ASD showed elevated sensory seeking relative to Sibs-TD, and increased sensory seeking was concurrently associated with reduced social orienting across groups and resting frontal asymmetry in Sibs-ASD. Sensory seeking also predicted later social symptomatology. Findings suggest that sensory seeking may produce cascading effects on social development in infants at risk for ASD and that atypical frontal asymmetry may underlie this atypical pattern of sensory responsiveness.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.
This study examined sequential associations between child play and caregiver talk in 98 caregiver-child dyads (M = 14 months). Fifty dyads included a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Analyses revealed sequential associations between child play and caregiver follow-in (FI) utterances (utterances related to the child's attentional focus) were stronger in the ASD as compared to the typically developing (TD) group. FI utterances were more likely to elicit functional play than caregiver-focused utterances, and more so in the ASD group. Across groups, FI directives were more likely to elicit functional play than FI comments. These findings have important implications for research involving caregiver-child play as an early intervention context for children with ASD.
© 2017 The Authors. Child Development © 2017 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
The number of patients surviving with congenital heart disease (CHD) has soared over the last 3 decades. Adults constitute the fastest-growing segment of the CHD population, now outnumbering children. Research to date on the heart-brain intersection in this population has been focused largely on neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood and adolescence. Mutations in genes that are highly expressed in heart and brain may cause cerebral dysgenesis. Together with altered cerebral perfusion in utero, these factors are associated with abnormalities of brain structure and brain immaturity in a significant portion of neonates with critical CHD even before they undergo cardiac surgery. In infancy and childhood, the brain may be affected by risk factors related to heart disease itself or to its interventional treatments. As children with CHD become adults, they increasingly develop heart failure, atrial fibrillation, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and coronary disease. These acquired cardiovascular comorbidities can be expected to have effects similar to those in the general population on cerebral blood flow, brain volumes, and dementia. In both children and adults, cardiovascular disease may have adverse effects on achievement, executive function, memory, language, social interactions, and quality of life. Against the backdrop of shifting demographics, risk factors for brain injury in the CHD population are cumulative and synergistic. As neurodevelopmental sequelae in children with CHD evolve to cognitive decline or dementia during adulthood, a growing population of CHD can be expected to require support services. We highlight evidence gaps and future research directions.
© 2016 American Heart Association, Inc.
UNLABELLED - Although the functional architecture of the brain is indexed by resting-state connectivity networks, little is currently known about the mechanisms through which these networks assemble into stable mature patterns. The current study posits and tests the long-term phasic molding hypothesis that resting-state networks are gradually shaped by recurring stimulus-elicited connectivity across development by examining how both stimulus-elicited and resting-state functional connections of the human brain emerge over development at the systems level. Using a sequential design following 4- to 18-year-olds over a 2 year period, we examined the predictive associations between stimulus-elicited and resting-state connectivity in amygdala-cortical circuitry as an exemplar case (given this network's protracted development across these ages). Age-related changes in amygdala functional connectivity converged on the same regions of medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and inferior frontal gyrus when elicited by emotional stimuli and when measured at rest. Consistent with the long-term phasic molding hypothesis, prospective analyses for both connections showed that the magnitude of an individual's stimulus-elicited connectivity unidirectionally predicted resting-state functional connectivity 2 years later. For the amygdala-mPFC connection, only stimulus-elicited connectivity during childhood and the transition to adolescence shaped future resting-state connectivity, consistent with a sensitive period ending with adolescence for the amygdala-mPFC circuit. Together, these findings suggest that resting-state functional architecture may arise from phasic patterns of functional connectivity elicited by environmental stimuli over the course of development on the order of years.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT - A fundamental issue in understanding the ontogeny of brain function is how resting-state (intrinsic) functional networks emerge and relate to stimulus-elicited functional connectivity. Here, we posit and test the long-term phasic molding hypothesis that resting-state network development is influenced by recurring stimulus-elicited connectivity through prospective examination of the developing human amygdala-cortical functional connections. Our results provide critical insight into how early environmental events sculpt functional network architecture across development and highlight childhood as a potential developmental period of heightened malleability for the amygdala-medial prefrontal cortex circuit. These findings have implications for how both positive and adverse experiences influence the developing brain and motivate future investigations of whether this molding mechanism reflects a general phenomenon of brain development.
Copyright © 2016 the authors 0270-6474/16/364772-14$15.00/0.
We tested the relative levels (i.e., age equivalencies) of concurrent cross-modality (receptive and expressive) vocabulary and the relative strength of the longitudinal, cross-modality associations between early and later vocabulary sizes in minimally verbal preschoolers with ASD. Eighty-seven children participated. Parent-reported vocabulary was assessed at four periods separated by 4 months each. Expressive age equivalent scores were higher than receptive age equivalent scores at all four periods. Cross-lagged panel analysis was used to rule out common, but trivial, explanations for differences between the longitudinal associations of interest. Key associations were tested across intervals that varied from 8 to 12 months. In two of the three tested panels, the associations between early expressive vocabulary size and later receptive vocabulary size were stronger than the associations between early receptive vocabulary size and later expressive vocabulary size, providing evidence that is consistent with the hypothesis that expressive vocabulary size drives receptive vocabulary size in minimally verbal preschoolers with ASD.
© 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
One of the most important social identities that children learn to define themselves and others by is sex, becoming a salient social category by early childhood. Although older children begin to show greater flexibility in their gendered behaviors and attitudes, gender rigidity intensifies again around the time of puberty. In the current study, we assessed behavioral and neural biases to sex across a wide age group. Ninety-three youth (ages 7-17 years) provided behavioral rating of same- and opposite-sex attitudes, and 52 youth (ages 4-18 years) underwent an fMRI scan as they matched the emotion of same- and opposite-sex faces. We demonstrate significant age-related behavioral biases of sex that are mediated by differential amygdala response to opposite-sex relative to same-sex faces in children, an effect that completely attenuates by the teenage years. Moreover, we find a second peak in amygdala sensitivity to opposite-sex faces around the time of puberty. Thus, the amygdala codes for developmentally dependent and motivationally relevant social identification across development.