VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality
1. Systems Physiology and Psychology: Somatic and Behavioral Development
Lewis, Marc. Bridging Emotion Theory and Neurobiology Through Dynamic Systems Modeling. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 28/2, 2005. The University of Toronto psychologist updates and expands his proposal that the complexity sciences can ground and explain the study of human cognition and behavior. At its core is a view of self-organized cognitive processes that give rise to stable neural and psychological configurations which correspond to or represent external experience. The many peer reviews go on to commend this work as a well-conceived and necessary dimension.
Nonlinear dynamical systems operate through reciprocal, recursive, and multiple causal processes, offering a language of causality consistent with the flow of activation among neural components. (169) Broadly defined, self-organization refers to the emergence of novel patterns or structures, the appearance of new levels of integration and organization in existing structures, and the spontaneous transition from states of lower order to states of higher order. Examples are found in ecosystems, social systems, cortical systems, connectionist networks, morphogenesis and ontogenesis, not to mention tennis, music, and sex. (173)
Lewis, Marc. The Promise of Dynamic Systems Approaches for an Integrated Account of Human Development. Child Development. 71/1, 2000. The article extols nonlinear science as a new conceptual resource for this subject field if a common version and terminology can be worked out.
Dynamic systems theorists claim that all developmental outcomes can be explained as the spontaneous emergence of coherent, higher-order forms through recursive interactions among simpler components. This process is called self-organization, and it accounts for growth and novelty throughout the natural world, from organisms to societies to ecosystems to the biosphere itself. (36)
Lewis, Marc and Isabela Granic, eds. Emotion, Development, and Self-organization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Complexity science has the capacity to explain the emergence of cerebral function and personality as the result of inherent dynamic principles. A fractal-like self-similarity and “iterative feedback” is reported across many nested scales of behavior.
Li, Ping, et al. Dynamic Self-Organization and Early Lexical Development in Children. Cognitive Science. 31/4, 2007. Together with Xiaowei Zhao and Brian MacWhinney, an innovative connectionist model of how vocabularies organize themselves, especially with regard to a child’s first spurt of word learning and usage.
Liebeskind, Benjamin, et al. Complex Homology and the Evolution of Nervous Systems. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Online December, 2015. As another mid 2010s case of life’s embryonic developmental gestation becoming sufficiently filled in and verified, University of Texas, Austin, bioneuroscientists including Hans Hofmann find a deep, consistent, repetitive encephalization from the earliest advent of sensory, responsive neural circuits and behaviors. This retrospect by our worldwide phase of electronic cerebral networks finds a continuous elaboration (a term used) of morphogenetic topology and function which can be traced to human intelligence.
In the context of biology, homology is the existence of shared ancestry between a pair of structures, or genes, in different species. A common example of homologous structures in evolutionary biology are the wings of bats and the arms of primates. Evolutionary theory explains the existence of homologous structures adapted to different purposes as the result of descent with modification from a common ancestor. Convergent evolution is the independent evolution of similar features in species of different lineages. Convergent evolution creates analogous structures that have similar form or function, but that were not present in the last common ancestor of those groups. The cladistic term for the same phenomenon is homoplasy, from Greek for same form. The recurrent evolution of flight is a classic example of convergent evolution. (Wikipedia)
Magnusson, David, ed. The Lifespan Development of Individuals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. A volume from a Nobel conference to explore and integrate “behavioral, neurobiological, and psychosocial perspectives.”
Mangelsdorf, Sarah and Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan. Emergent Family Systems. Infant Behavior and Development. 30/1, 2007. A special issue on new understandings by way of systems principles applied to familial dynamics.
Martins, Mauricio, et al. How Children Perceive Fractals: Hierarchical Self-similarity and Cognitive Development. Cognition. 133/10, 2014. University of Vienna biologists and linguists, including Tecumseh Fitch, accomplish several insights about a correlative cosmos s graced by similar nested repetitions over a geometric scale. Indeed, both our faculties of textual language of spatial vision seem to mirror and reproduce this universal structure. The work once again exemplifies a luminous portal on affinities between human and universe.
The ability to understand and generate hierarchical structures is a crucial component of human cognition, available in language, music, mathematics and problem solving. Recursion is a particularly useful mechanism for generating complex hierarchies by means of self-embedding rules. In the visual domain, fractals are recursive structures in which simple transformation rules generate hierarchies of infinite depth. Research on how children acquire these rules can provide valuable insight into the cognitive requirements and learning constraints of recursion. These results suggest that the acquisition of recursion in vision follows learning constraints similar to the acquisition of recursion in language, and that both domains share cognitive resources involved in hierarchical processing. (Abstract excerpts)
McCune, Lorraine. How Children Learn to Learn Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. The veteran Rutgers University educational psychologist writes her opus which achieves novel insights into a child’s burst of representational speech via the perspective and activity of self-organizing dynamical systems.
Miller, Jeremy, et al. Transcriptional Landscape of the Prenatal Human Brain. Nature. 508/199, 2014. Into the 2010s, an 80 person team from the University of Washington, Harvard, Yale, MIT, UCLA, University of Texas, and USC medical and science schools, whose names reflect every continent, can now achieve this whole scale cerebral atlas. It begs whom is this collaborative “we” in the Abstract that has formed out of our personal craniums to be able to describe the creaturely evolution from which it emerged? By this vista, one could perceive a bicameral world brain, with its own knowledge content and repository, which could be fed back to heal and enhance the fraught beings it arose from.
The anatomical and functional architecture of the human brain is mainly determined by prenatal transcriptional processes. We describe an anatomically comprehensive atlas of the mid-gestational human brain, including de novo reference atlases, in situ hybridization, ultra-high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and microarray analysis on highly discrete laser-microdissected brain regions. In developing cerebral cortex, transcriptional differences are found between different proliferative and post-mitotic layers, wherein laminar signatures reflect cellular composition and developmental processes. Cytoarchitectural differences between human and mouse have molecular correlates, including species differences in gene expression in subplate, although surprisingly we find minimal differences between the inner and outer subventricular zones even though the outer zone is expanded in humans. Both germinal and post-mitotic cortical layers exhibit fronto-temporal gradients, with particular enrichment in the frontal lobe. These data provide a rich, freely-accessible resource for understanding human brain development. (Abstract)
Nelson, Katherine. Emerging Levels of Consciousness in Early Human Development. Terrace, Herbert and Janet Metcalfe, eds. The Missing Link in Cognition: Origins of Self-Reflective Consciousness. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005. Physical, social, cognitive, representational, narrative and cultural levels of awareness (autonoesis) arise the same in infancy and childhood (ontogeny) as in human evolution (phylogeny), both which appear as a sequential process of awakening to and reflecting upon the world. (The link is “metacognition” or a faculty of knowing that one knows and others do also.)
…many developmental theorists have adopted the perspective of dynamic systems analysis, conceptualizing human development as a self-organizing system involving brain, body, and mind functioning together in interaction with both the internal and external environment… (116)
Nelson, Katherine. Young Minds in Social Worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. Reviewed more in New Parallels of Phylogeny and Ontogeny, the emeritus CCNY psychologist achieves a grand synthesis of developmental systems theory, Jean Piaget, Merlin Donald, and much more.