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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

1. Systems Physiology and Psychology: Somatic and Behavioral Development

Warneken, Felix, et al. Cooperative Activities in Young Children and Chimpanzees. Child Development. 77/3, 2006. From the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, new findings of a human propensity for shared intentionality.

Watanabe, Takamitsu and Geraint Rees. Age-Associated Changes in Rich-Club Organization in Autistic and Neurotypical Human Brains. Nature Scientific Reports. 5/16152, 2015. University College London neuroscientists avail the latest brain imaging abilities to further highlight the presence and importance of network architectures in cerebral faculties and behaviors. A significance distinction between “normal” and “autistic” states could then be explained by the more or lesser quality of neural interconnections.

Macroscopic structural networks in the human brain have a rich-club architecture comprising both highly inter-connected central regions and sparsely connected peripheral regions. Recent studies show that disruption of this functionally efficient organisation is associated with several psychiatric disorders. However, despite increasing attention to this network property, whether age-associated changes in rich-club organisation occur during human adolescence remains unclear. Here, analysing a publicly shared diffusion tensor imaging dataset, we found that, during adolescence, brains of typically developing (TD) individuals showed increases in rich-club organisation and inferred network functionality, whereas individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) did not. Moreover, this typical age-related changes in rich-club organisation were characterised by progressive involvement of the right anterior insula. In contrast, in ASD individuals, did not show typical increases in grey matter volume, and this relative anatomical immaturity was correlated with the severity of ASD social symptoms. These results provide evidence that rich-club architecture is one of the bases of functionally efficient brain networks underpinning complex cognitive functions in adult human brains. (Abstract)

Witherington, David. The Dynamic Systems Approach as Metatheory for Development Psychology. Human Development. 50/2-3, 2007. After some two decades of exploratory discourse this field appears to have reached a point of convergent synthesis. A University of New Mexico psychologist here carefully blends in this context the options of a ‘contextualist’ camp into local detail, and an ‘organismic’ school in search of holistic integration. These archetypes can lately be subsumed within the encompassing phenomenon of nonlinear self-organization. Viable individuation is thus accomplished by a ‘circular causality’ downward and upward amongst personality nested stages. An affirmative peer review follows by Willis Overton, who has worked toward this goal for many years. A wider import of such an advance is another confirmation within a cosmic to humankind genesis of this universal complementary marriage.

As the core idea for the DSP’s (Dynamic Systems Perspective) metatheoretical framework, self-organization provides a model for understanding developmental change rooted in both universals and particulars, in change that is both orderly and irreversible, and variable and reversible. Two general foci mark the conceptual orientation that self-organization provides: (1) a focus on emergence rather than design as the basis for system development, and (2) a focus on the relations among components of a system, rather than the components themselves, as the source of development. (135-136) The DSP offers a ‘grand narrative’ framework for developmental psychology that promises to unite the field through its focus on both stable pattern and local variability, on developmental global order and on the particulars of real-time task-specific contexts. (147)

Wu, Yihan, et al. Characterizing normal perinatal development of the human brain structural connectivity. arXiv:2308.11836. We enter this work by Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School computational neuroscientists as an example 0f life's long knowledge accumulation which can finally into the 21st century be in retrospect fed back to the beings it arose from to heal,salve and mitigate. Thus a overall self-healing, medicating, palliative course becomes evident, such as occurred with viral pandemics, as a salient evolutionary feature.

Early brain development is characterized by the formation of a highly organized structural connectome. The interconnected nature of this connectome underlies the brain's cognitive abilities and influences its response to diseases and environmental factors. Hence, quantitative assessment of structural connectivity in the perinatal stage is useful for studying normal and abnormal neurodevelopment. In this study, we developed a computational framework, based on spatio-temporal averaging, for determining such baselines. We observed increases in global and local efficiency, a decrease in characteristic path length, and widespread strengthening of the connections within and across brain lobes and hemispheres. The new computational method and results are useful for assessing normal and abnormal development of the structural connectome early in life.

Zheng, Minzhang, et al. Multiscale Dynamical Network Mechanism Underlying Aging from Birth to Death. arXiv:1706.00667. Neil Johnson’s University of Miami systems physics team apply their unique nonlinear studies to our own personal, lifelong well being or lack thereof. As this section records, an increasing parallel is noticed between ones health and the degree to which our vital rhythms remain in a critically complex state. As a person ages, these synchronies lose their tone with resultant maladies.

How self-organized networks develop, mature and degenerate is a key question for sociotechnical, cyberphysical and biological systems with potential applications from tackling violent extremism through to neurological diseases. So far, it has proved impossible to measure the continuous-time evolution of any in vivo organism network from birth to death. Here we provide such a study which crosses all organizational and temporal scales, from individual components (10^1) through to the mesoscopic (10^3) and entire system scale (10^6). These continuous-time data reveal a lifespan driven by punctuated, real-time co-evolution of the structural and functional networks. Aging sees these structural and functional networks gradually diverge in terms of their small-worldness and eventually their connectivity. In addition to their direct relevance to online extremism, our findings offer fresh insight into aging in any network system of comparable complexity for which extensive in vivo data is not yet available. (Abstract excerpts)

Zhu, Meng and Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz. Principles of Self-Organization of the Mammalian Embryo. Cell. 183/6, 2020. Cambridge University developmental physiologists report their latest findings which could be seen as well indicative of a 21st century scientific revolution to view life’s morphogenesis as due to this dynamic, Turing-like mathematical generation. See also from M Z-G’s lab Self-organization of Stem Cells into Embryos by Marta Shahbazi, et al in Science (364/948, 2019, herein), and The Dance of Life: The New Science of How a Single Cell becomes a Human Being. by and M. Zernicka-Goetz and Roger Highfield. (Basic Books, 2020).

Early embryogenesis is a conserved and self-organized process. In the mammalian embryo, the potential for self-organization is manifested in its extraordinary developmental plasticity, allowing a correctly patterned embryo to arise despite experimental perturbation. The underlying mechanisms enabling such regulative development have long been a topic of study. In this Review, we summarize our current understanding of the self-organizing principles behind the regulative nature of the early mammalian embryo. We argue that geometrical constraints, feedback between mechanical and biochemical factors, and cellular heterogeneity are all required to ensure the developmental plasticity of mammalian embryo development. (Abstract)

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