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Why do sensitive periods exist?

CMCB Green Seminar

Date:10.12.2018, 16:00 - 17:00
Speaker: Willem E. Frankenhuis, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University
Location: CRTD, auditorium left
Host: Prof. Gerd Kempermann

Sensitive periods are increasingly well-understood at the neural-physiological level. However, we know little about the evolutionary selection pressures that produce sensitive periods. In this talk, I will present a formal modeling approach to studying the evolution of sensitive periods. We model development as a specialization process during which individuals incrementally adapt to local environmental conditions, while sampling imperfect cues to the environmental state. We first compute optimal developmental mechanisms (i.e., decision rules) for a range of ecological conditions. Then we expose these mechanisms to experiences to obtain developmental trajectories and distributions of mature phenotypes. Our results show that genetically identical individuals who develop in the same environment diverge phenotypically due to stochastic variation in experiences. Moreover, the stability of individual differences increases with advancing age. These findings dovetail with empirical observations in rodents made at the CRT.

5 most recent papers
Fawcett, T. W., & Frankenhuis, W. E. (2015). Adaptive explanations for sensitive windows in development. Frontiers in Zoology, 12 (Suppl. 1): S3.

Frankenhuis, W. E., Nettle, D., & McNamara, J. M. (2018). Echoes of early life: Recent insights from mathematical modeling. Child Development, 89, 1504-1518.

Frankenhuis, W. E., & Panchanathan, K. (2011). Balancing sampling and specialization: An adaptationist model of incremental development. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278, 3558-3565.

Panchanathan, K., & Frankenhuis, W. E. (2016). The evolution of sensitive periods in a model of incremental development. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 283, 20152439.

Stamps, J., & Frankenhuis, W. E. (2016). Bayesian models of development. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 31, 260-268.

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