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Dr. Jonathan Delafield-Butt, Director of the cross-disciplinary Laboratory for Innovation in Autism and Reader in Child Development at the University of Strathclyde, discusses his interesting research in early cognitive development.

Fascinated by psychology, Delafield-Butt’s work studies the genesis of conscious experience as well as the deep emotional foundations of general psychological development, with a special focus on the motor disruption seen in autism spectrum disorder. Delafield-Butt earned a Ph.D. in Developmental Neurobiology from the University of Edinburgh Medical School and completed his postdoctoral work while attending the Universities of Edinburgh and Copenhagen. He is a contributing writer to the notable book titled, The Infant Mind: Origins of the Social Brain.

Dr. Jonathan Delafield-Butt talks about his background and the reasons why he was so motivated to study the infant mind and infant development. As he states, he was interested in the mind, and he thought it best to start at the beginning, to understand the human mind in its early development. As he explains, his early work was in the field of chemistry, then he moved into neuroscience to get a better understanding of the structure, composition, and origins of the human mind. Delafield-Butt talks about how he wanted to truly pinpoint the emergence of consciousness and the development of the human agency. By studying movement, Delafield-Butt was seeking to ascertain exactly when movement is first organized with an awareness, conscious actions.

The Ph.D. provides an overview of the stages of development, and how awareness and conscious actions are developed, and progress. He discusses participatory awareness and the moments that infants begin to demonstrate their conscious awareness. He cites important studies and the historical work of other scientists working with consciousness theories, going back to the early 1950s. And he provides an overview of newer data that discusses cortex and brain stem theories. As he states, all of our experiences are taking place through the brain stem, and that the brain stem does have associative memory. Ultimately, Delafield-Butt states that some areas of the brain are more to the foreground than others, depending upon the given need at the time. He discusses various layers, memories, and associations—incorporating instinct, problem-solving, etc. Delafield-Butt states that while infants do not have the same conceptual organization, an abstraction of ideas, or the mastery of language, they are in fact as conscious as adults.

Dr. Jonathan Delafield-Butt is a respected member of the World Association for Infant Mental Health and the International Society for Autism Research. He is also an affiliate member of the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre at the University of Gothenburg.

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