Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani
The early integration of sleep, motor and thinking functions in brain development
Knowing the basic structure of the brain
It is difficult to know the basic structure of a house after construction. It is easy to learn its basic structure if we observe the construction processes from the beginning. The author thought that the study of the human brain might be analogous. This is one of the reasons why we developed near-infrared optical topography (NIR-OT) to observe the functional development of an infant’s brain. This method is completely noninvasive yet robust in tracking an infant’s motion. We have used the NIR-OT and EEG (electroencephalography) to study the development of early infants including newborns.
It is generally thought that the human brain consists of localized functional modules. However, we do not have sufficient knowledge about when and how specialization occurs in the development stage of the brain. Therefore, we are studying regional specificity and the bindings between individual functional areas.
A priori and a posteriori approaches
There are two approaches to elucidate the brain system. One is an a priori (deductive) approach and the other is an a posteriori (inductive) approach. For the former, we study by developing the NIR-OT, and for the latter, we collaborate with highly experienced practitioners. The practitioners can provide tacit knowledge through numerous experiences in nursing babies with severe brain damage. On the other hand, scientists and scholars can deductively provide explicit knowledge through strict experimentation and analysis. Our trial is to bridge and fuse the a priori (deductive) and a posteriori (inductive) approaches even though the distance between the two approaches might still be wide at present.
In this paper, the author would like to address the mechanisms of the early integration of sleep, motor and thinking functions in brain development from the aforementioned viewpoints.