Job Talk: Mark Wade | Clinical Area

Wednesday December 6, 2017
12:30 PM - 12:30 PM

Title: Intermediate Phenotypes Linking Biopsychosocial Risk and Child Psychopathology: The Role of Theory of Mind and Executive Functioning
Abstract: Theory of Mind (ToM) and executive functioning (EF) are two neurocognitive abilities that develop rapidly over the preschool period. ToM and EF are highly interrelated, both behaviourally and neurologically, and are predictive of a host of psychosocial outcomes across the lifespan. In this talk, I describe a developmental cascade model of ToM and EF in which key social-cognitive skills in the second year of life are examined as precursors to ToM and EF through their impact on children’s nascent language abilities. Further, both cumulative social disadvantage and biomedical risk are investigated as risk factors that increase vulnerability to cognitive morbidity over the early years. ToM and EF are then discussed as plausible ‘endophenotypes’ connecting genetic variability to externalizing psychopathology in childhood. Finally, it is suggested that these social and biomedical risks are non-deterministic, and that positive postnatal socialization experiences with caregivers may protect children against their deleterious influence. The implications for prevention and intervention are discussed, with the overarching suggestion that early programming may help to mitigate the negative cascading effects of poor early adaptation on later psychosocial health and development.