In neuroscience, if we wish to identify the brain areas that serve particular functions, a common approach is to study behaviour when part of the brain has been rendered inoperative as a result of injury or illness. By identifying the functional loss of a particular brain area, we can learn something about the role of that brain area in normal conditions. One problem with this approach is that it treats the brain as if its functional specialization was static rather than a dynamic and developing process. A brain area may feasibly serve a role in the development of a function, but lose that later in life. Therefore, we need to understand the processes that are necessary for the development of function and ask about the brain mechanisms that serve them. Then, if we can examine a condition in which those processes are impaired, and we can find the brain bases for that impairment, this might be a better way to appreciate the role of that brain area in serving the function in question. The way that we understand other people's thoughts may be a good case in point. It may be profitable to study the processes that contribute to the development of social understanding, if we are to understand its neural substrate in adulthood. Imitation seems likely to be one important developmental process, necessary for the acquisition of culture, language, knowledge and social cognitive abilities (Whiten et al., 2003; Meltzoff and Moore, 1999).
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.