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Lecture 1

PSYC 4P56 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Endophenotype

Course Code
Christine Lackner

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Tasha Huggins
Thursday January 15, 2014 – Week 2
In the article by Evans and Fuller-Rowell (2013), they examined how poverty and
chronic stress during childhood can affect executive functioning into adulthood. This topic has
important implications with respects to discussions about gene-environment interactions because
it shows that development is not determined by certain genetic variables or by specific
environmental conditions, but rather it can be explained by how these two interact with each
other. In this research, children’s socioeconomic status was correlated with their working
memory performance; however this correlation was not applicable to all children who grew up in
poverty. This correlation was found to be moderated by the child’s self-regulation ability, where
better self-regulatory skills protected against harmful effects on working memory in adulthood.
Although the outcomes of this interaction appear to be mainly a behavioural approach, it
can also be considered in a maturation approach. Since an impoverished environment can cause
additional stress, the child may not develop at the same rate as a child who lives in an enriched
environment with minimal stress. For example, a child who lives in poverty may need to cope
with not having as many books in the household, meaning they wouldn’t have as much exposure
to reading before reaching school age resulting in a struggle to learn how to reach while same
aged peers have an already developed reading skill. A maturation approach to this topic can help
us examine it in terms of sensitive periods in children’s development where deprived
environments may have a more harmful effect during certain periods compared to others. The
reduced executive function ability in adulthood as resulted by child poverty and chronic stress
may have been mediated by a lack of developed connections between neurons or dendritic
In this study, the endophenotype in the interaction is the chronic stress and poverty in
childhood. Although this may be a simple explanation, abnormalities in the maturational course
may be able to provide an explanation for the outcome on a neurochemical or cortical level.
When examining an interaction from a purely behavioural approach, there are many underlying
processes that are conducted at a maturational level that are overlooked. By examining
behaviours with a brain maturation approach in combination with a behavioural approach, we
can gain a better understanding of how certain behaviours arise when certain conditions are
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