- Map use and the Development of Spatial Cognition - Oxford Scholarship
- The Development of Spatial Cognition
- Development of Spatial Cognition
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The young deaf child is faced with the dual task in sign language of spatial perception, memory and spatial transformations, on the one hand, and processing grammatical structure on the other, all in one and the same visual event. Children with different auditory and language experience who learn sign as a first language provide a privileged testing ground for investigating the interplay between development of a spatial language and its spatial cognitive underpinnings.
We investigate whether the complex requirements for spatial processing affect the development of particular spatial cognitive capacities, and parse out the effects of different sensory and language experiences. Language and spatial representation are attributes for which the two hemispheres in deaf people show different specializations, as our research has shown. In a series of studies we directly examine the development of brain organization for language and space.
Map use and the Development of Spatial Cognition - Oxford Scholarship
Experimental studies address the link between early hand dominance for sign and brain organization, experimental probes of spatial language and spatial cognition, and event related potential studies of the neural systems underlying the onset of signing in deaf infants. Only a few studies examined these relations longitudinally. In contrast, work from our lab showed that the age of attainment of self-locomotion milestones did not predict spatial memory at ages 4 and 6 years. Engagement in spatial exploration e.
Age of self-locomotion, in turn, predicted more engagement in spatial exploration. The lack of relations between self-locomotion and spatial memory, might therefore suggest that children who initially lag behind on motor development do catch up, but at the long term it is exploration which is initially enabled by motor development which is important for future spatial skills Oudgenoeg-Paz et al.
The Development of Spatial Cognition
Thus, exploration behavior the way children interact with their environment might be one of the mechanisms underlying the relation between self-locomotion and spatial language and cognition. Support for this hypothesis comes from the study previously discussed Oudgenoeg-Paz et al. These children also had better spatial language at age 32 months. Exploration through self-locomotion partially mediated the effect of age of walking on spatial language. It is important to note that while the studies reviewed here support the link between self-locomotion and spatial skills such as spatial language and spatial memory, evidence regarding other skills such as spatial coding is less compelling see for example: Tyler and McKenzie, ; Bell and Fox, Taken together, these results suggest that exploration is one possible candidate for a mechanism underlying the relations between the attainment of self-locomotion and spatial linguistic-cognitive skills.
Exploration, however, is probably not the only mechanism. Other factors, such as social stimulation and attentional abilities see for example: Gogate and Hollich, ; Karasik et al.
More work is needed to gain insights into the role of self-locomotion in the development of spatial language and into different mechanisms underlying these relations. Another issue to be addressed is the question whether self-locomotion is a sufficient or necessary condition for the development of spatial linguistic-cognitive skills. The presence of underlying mechanisms, such as exploration implies that self-locomotion is not sufficient.
To answer the question whether self-locomotion is necessary for the development of spatial language and spatial cognition we turn to evidence from children with motor impairments. Spinal muscular atrophy is a hereditary neuromuscular disease characterized by severe progressive muscular weakness due to a degeneration of the anterior horn cells of the spinal cord.
Clinical manifestations are severe muscular weakness; proximal limb muscles are more affected than distal muscles, and lower limb muscles more than upper muscles. The clinical evolution is characterized by degeneration which varies in rapidity depending on the type. SMA is divided into types 1, 2, and 3; classification is based on the age of onset, developmental milestones, and life span. Type 2 - SMA is the intermediate form, with onset between 6 and 18 months of age Munsat, Children with intermediate SMA are unable to crawl and walk. Most of these patients could sit within the normal age range up to 9 months , the remainder learned to do so between 10 and 30 months Bertini et al.
Patients with type 2 - SMA who can stand up have a better prognosis than those who cannot. Indeed, those who can stand up generally do not have breathing impairment and rarely have distal upper limb weakness in the first 5 years of life Zerres et al. In our laboratory, three experiments were conducted in order to test spatial linguistic-cognitive skills in young children with type 2 - SMA.
These children had never crawled or walked at any level and they had never driven a motorized wheelchair. There was no difference in performance between SMA children and the healthy control group. Results show that the performance of the SMA group was significantly superior to that of the healthy control group.
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Results showed no difference between healthy and SMA children in the comprehension task. In the production task, SMA children were more successful than the control group. Furthermore, this advantage appears particularly in the production task, which is more difficult than the comprehension task.
Development of Spatial Cognition
The performance of SMA children suggests that, despite their total deprivation of locomotor experience, they have the capacity to acquire and use rich spatial representations that are embodied in the semantics of natural languages. Taken together, these results indicate that young children with SMA excel in spatial language and spatial cognition. Different hypotheses have been proposed to explain these striking findings.
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For type-2 SMA children having no experience with locomotion, language is a particularly crucial tool during their cognitive development. Because of their severe motor impairment, type-2 SMA children cannot actively transform their physical environment. However, they are skilled in manipulating their caregivers in order to get them to act on the environment. In this respect, language enables these children to transform their physical environment, despite the fact that it is unreachable for them. Consequently, the results concerning SMA children may not be surprising.
Since these children are motorically impaired, they rely more on language than healthy children in order to get other people around them to perform actions for them. It might be that this way these children obtain the same information typically developing children obtain through active exploration. It should be also noted that language can play a role in structuring spatial cognition cf. Recent cross-linguistic work has established that frames of reference i. The hypothesis according to which the acquisition and use of language favors the development of spatial representations could explain the cognitive profile of children with SMA.
Indeed, these patients exhibit both rich knowledge of the linguistic markers of spatial relationships, and high scores in spatial search tasks. As a result, a social stimulation hypothesis can be put forth to account for the striking cognitive performances in young SMA children.
Evidence from studies with typically developing children suggests that they too profit from social interaction to stress regularities in the learning of language and spatial concepts cf. However, one can also speculate that differences in activation of lower-level mechanisms could result in distinct higher-level cognitive skills. Thus, in SMA children, increased attentional abilities could be a sufficient explanation for the excellent cognitive performances observed. Indeed, clinicians have noted the keen interest of these children in their surroundings, their observational abilities and their mental acuity cf.
The major role of visual attentional capacities in memory for spatial locations in typically developing children was underlined by several authors e. This suggestion is compatible with experimental data. Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service.
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