The tortuous route from genes to behavior: A neuroconstructivist approach

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2006 Mar;6(1):9-17. doi: 10.3758/cabn.6.1.9.


In their excitement at using the human genome project to uncover the functions of specific genes, researchers have often ignored one fundamental factor: the gradual process of ontogenetic development. The view that there might be a gene for spatial cognition or language has emanated from a focus on the structure of the adult brain in neuropsychological patients whose brains were fully and normally developed until their brain insult. The developing brain is very different. It starts out highly interconnected across regions and is neither localized nor specialized at birth, allowing interaction with the environment to play an important role in gene expression and the ultimate cognitive phenotype. This article takes a neuroconstructivist perspective, arguing that domain-specific end states can stem from more domain-general start states, that associations may turn out to be as informative as dissociations, and that genetic mutations that alter the trajectory of ontogenetic development can inform nature/nurture debates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Chromosome Mapping / methods
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Genes / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Language Development Disorders / genetics
  • Language Development Disorders / pathology
  • Language Development Disorders / physiopathology
  • Models, Animal