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Research

Background

I did my “licence” and “doctorat en psychologie génétique” at the University of Geneva where I was also a member of the International Centre for Genetic Epistemology (1972-1980) run by Jean Piaget, working on normal cognitive development across various areas of cognition.

I then was engaged in a research programme at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, specifically in language acquisition, where I visited on a monthly basis.

In 1982 I moved to the MRC Cognitive Development Unit in London, where I continued to do basic research on typical cognitive development but became increasingly interested in atypical development, particularly in disorders of known genetic origin.

In 1998, I moved to the UCL Institute of Child Health, where I headed the Neurocognitive Development Unit, to study atypical development, in particular Williams syndrome, Down syndrome, and FragileX syndrome, and have specialised in that field since then, both with my own team and collaborating with specialists in cellular biology, genetics and mouse models.

In 2006, I moved to the Centre for Brain & Cognitive Development, at Birkbeck, University of London, to continue my multidisciplinary research on atypical populations, particularly during infancy and toddlerhood.

Current research

My general programme of research is based on the argument that the static model of intact and impaired modules, often used in adult neuropsychology, is inappropriate for the study of neurodevelopmental disorders, in that the brains of atypically developing children are not normal brains with parts intact and parts impaired, but brains that have developed differently throughout embriogenesis and postnatal development. I therefore deem it essential to trace cognitive-level phenotypic outcomes back to their basic-level origins in infancy, and consider any domain-specific deficits in the phenotypical outcome as emergent over developmental time.

The results of such studies have crucial relevance to cognitive remediation, in that public education and health spending starts to increase significantly at just the age when brain plasticity starts to decrease. Intervention very early in infancy, during the period of maximum plasticity of the atypically developing brain, on these basic-level processes rather than domain-specific ones, may have far longer-reaching results.

I also have vast experience presenting scientific findings to the general public, having written three books for parents and served as a consultant to various organisations specialising in DVDs, TV programmes, books, toys, etc. for infants and children, as well as verifying the scientific accuracy of their advertising claims, etc.

Karmiloff-Smith: Beyond Modularity

Karmiloff-Smith: Beyond Modularity

 
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