Interpreting developmental changes in neuroimaging signals



The imaging of developmental changes in brain function is challenging, but great strides have been made in addressing many of the conceptual issues that this work raises. I highlight a set of issues that remain to be addressed in this literature. First, I argue that the appeal to developmental neurobiology is often misplaced, as it focuses on neurodevelopmental processes that are mostly completed by the age at which neuroimaging studies can be performed. Second, I argue that the concept of “normative” development needs to be reexamined, as it reflects fundamental value judgments about brain development that seem inappropriate for scientific investigation. Third, I examine the ways in which developmental changes are often interpreted, arguing that common interpretations, including the concepts of “efficiency” and “focalization” may be less useful than commonly supposed. To put developmental neuroimaging on stronger footing, we need to develop stronger connections between computational and neurobiological accounts of developmental changes. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.