Pat Levitt: Neurodevelopmental Disorder Heterogeneity, Brain Development and Plasticity Over the Lifespan
Typically developing individuals exhibit broad heterogeneity in cognitive, social and emotional behaviors. While neuroscientists are still struggling with understanding the mechanisms that underlie this heterogeneity, the field now has recognized that individual differences, even between two individuals with the same categorical neurodevelopmental diagnosis, can be profound. Thus, the identical causal mutation often leads to clinical symptoms that may differ widely in those who are affected. These differences, in turn, create challenges for implementing the most effective clinical treatments. Studies will be presented showing that differences in neurodevelopmental trajectories that are controlled by genes and environment may underlie heterogeneity. Moreover, there may be differences in brain plasticity that will impact how well interventions work. The most recent research will be presented showing that brain development occurs over a much longer period of time than previously thought. In addition, new findings reveal the promises and challenges of changing brain wiring and neurochemistry over a lifetime. This research has led to new ideas regarding the capacity for change, and the importance of incorporating best practices that do not settle for the ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment of children, adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities.
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