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Terms You’ll Want to Know

Words to Describe Early Child Development

Antenatal: The developmental period of the unborn child between conception and birth. Synonym is antepartum which probably refers more to the mother’s condition before birth, as contrasted to postpartum referring to afterbirth.
Prenatal: The period before birth during pregnancy. Basically, a synonym of antenatal.
Neonatal: The newborn, usually the first month after birth.
Perinatal: Period “around birth”, usually five months before birth and one month after birth.
Postnatal: Period immediately after birth of the baby.
Postpartum: Period after birth, generally referencing the mother’s condition, e.g. postpartum blues

Developmental Terms

Critical Period: In developmental psychology and biology, a critical period is a maturational stage in the lifespan of an organism in which the nervous system is especially sensitive to certain environmental stimuli. If for some reason, the organism does not receive the appropriate stimulus during the critical period to learn a given skill or trait, it may be difficult, ultimately less successful, or even impossible to develop certain associated functions later in life. From Wikipedia. http://www.wikipedia.com

Genetics Terms

Epigenetics: Field of Biology. Epigenetics is the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. The Greek prefix epi (over, outside of, around). Epigenetic implies features that are on top of or in addition to the traditional genetic basis for inheritance.

Genotype: The genotype of an organism is the chemical composition of its DNA. The genotype consists of all the nucleic acids present in a DNA molecule which code for a particular trait. The genotype of each of us is derived from the DNA of our parents.

Phenotype: A phenotype is the outward appearance based on the proteins created by the DNA. If you have blue eyes, your eye color phenotype is blue.

Reverse transcriptase: Reverse transcriptase is the replication enzyme of retroviruses. Because it polymerizes DNA precursors, reverse transcriptase is a DNA polymerase. However, whereas cellular DNA polymerases use DNA as a template for making new DNAs, reverse transcriptase uses the single-stranded RNA in retroviruses as the template for synthesizing viral DNA.

Nutrition Terms

Body Mass Index or BMI: A person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of fat in the body.

  • BMI less than 18.5 is defined as underweight
  • BMI 18 to 25, normal
  • BMI 25 to 30, overweight
  • BMI greater than 30, obese

Malnutrition: Malnutrition is a condition which develops when the body does not get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. Malnutrition occurs in people who are undernourished or overnourished. Malnutrition can result from situations other than starvation including illness, excessive dieting, food allergies, severe injuries, hospitalization, substance abuse, age-related illnesses or injuries. http://www.freedictionary.com

Undernourished: A diet which insufficient in terms of energy (caloric) requirements and diversity to meet additional nutritional needs. Undernourishment is a leading risk factor for death and other health consequences.

The prevalence of undernourishment is the main hunger indicator used by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Today, the majority of countries have an undernourishment prevalence level below 20%, with the highest prevalence across Sub-Saharan Africa (reaching 62% in the Central African Republic. https://ourworldindata.org/hunger-and-undernourishment

Overnourished: Dietary imbalances caused by eating too much, eating too many of the wrong things, or taking too many vitamins or other dietary replacements. Risk of overnutrition is increased by being more than 20% overweight, consuming a diet high in salt and fat, and taking high doses of Nicotinic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, and Iron or other trace minerals. http://www.freedictionary.com

Waist to Hip Ratio or WHR: To calculate your WHR, measure the width of your waist by the width of your hips (hips in inches at navel/waist in inches just below rib cage). The National Institute of Health suggests that those of us with a WHR greater than 1.0 have an increased risk of developing heart disease (so-called apple shape). Women should have a WHR less than .8 and men should have a WHR less than .95. The WHR may be a better predictor of your risk of developing cardiovascular disease that the Body Mass Index or BMI. Use these WHR calculators. https://www.thecalculatorsite.com/health/whr-calculator.php https://goodcalculators.com/waist-to-hip-ratio-calculator/

Western Diet: Diet with inadequate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and low-fat dairy products and excessive amounts of refined and processed foods, alcohol, salt, red meats, sugary beverages, snacks, eggs, and butter. The Western Diet is low in potassium, high in sodium, fats, and simple carbohydrates. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Western+diet

Scientific Terms

Epidemiology: The study of the factors determining and influencing the frequency and distribution of disease, injury, and other health-related events and their causes in a defined human population for the purpose of establishing programs to prevent and control their development and spread. Descriptive epidemiology is the first stage in an epidemiologic study in which a disease that has occurred is examined. Data necessary in this phase include tie and place of occurrence and the characteristics of the persons affected. Tentative theories may be formulated. Analytic epidemiology is the second stage in which hypotheses generated in the descriptive phase are tested. from Miller Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health. 7th edition, 2003 by Saunders and imprint of Elsevier Inc. https://books.google.com/books/about/Encyclopedia_and_Dictionary_of_Medicine.html?id=oZfgAAAAMAAJ

Neurobiology and Neuropsychology Terms

Brain Atrophy: A reduction of brain tissue volume and cortical thickness over time due to various combinations of reduced synaptic density, dendritic arborization, corpuscular volume of neurons in glia, and cell death.

Brain Morphometry: A subfield of morphometry and the brain sciences concerned with the measurement of brain structures and changes in brain structures during development, aging, learning, disease, and evolution. Brain morphometry starts with noninvasive neural imaging data, typically obtained from magnetic resonance imaging or MRI. The digital data from the MRI scan are used by researchers to analyze the images further using advanced mathematical and statistical models. Researchers can quantify anatomical features of the brain in terms of shape, mass, and volume. There are a number of techniques, and the field is evolving rapidly.

Cognitive abilities: The term cognitive ability generally refers to the capacity to mentally process, comprehend, and manipulate information—in short, the ability to learn. http://psychology.iresearchnet.com/?s=cognitive+abilities

Cortical Thickness: A brain morphometric measure used to describe the combined thickness of the layers of the cerebral cortex. Cortical thickness roughly correlates with a number of neurons within an ontogenetic column and it is often taken as indicative of cognitive abilities of the individual. In the living brain, cortical thickness is determined on the basis of gray matter set and segmented neuroimaging data, usually from the local or average distance between the white matter surface and the pial surface (pia = protective membrane surrounding the brain).

Dementia: A chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. Synonyms are madness, insanity, derangement, lunacy, senile dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

FDG by PET: F-labeled fluorodeoxyglucose by Positron Emission Tomography = FDG by PET. FDG-P From Wikipedia. Cortical thickness is a brain morphometric measure used to describe the combined thickness of the layers of the cerebral cortex and mammalian brains, either in local terms or as a global average for the entire brain. Given that cortical thickness roughly correlates with a number of neurons within an ontogenetic column, is often taken as indicative of cognitive abilities of the individual, albeit the latter are known to have multiple determinants. In the living brain, cortical thickness is commonly determined on the basis of gray matter set and segmented neuroimaging data, usually from the local or average distance between the white matter surface and the pial surface. ET imaging provides the earliest biomarker predicting neurodegenerative disease. FDG-PET is the gold standard for the assessment of cerebral glucose metabolism in the brain.

Go/No-Go task: This task measures response inhibition. In the go/no-go task, participants respond to certain stimuli (“go” stimuli and make no response for others (“no-go” stimuli). The main dependent measure in go/no-go tasks is the commission error rate (making a “go” response on a “no-go” trial; fewer errors signifies better response inhibition. Go to this site to test drive a go/no-go task. https://www.psytoolkit.org/experiment-library/go-no-go.html

Interoception: Interoception is the sense of the internal state of the body. This can be both conscious and non-conscious. It encompasses the brain’s process of integrating signals relayed from the body into specific subregions—like the brainstem, thalamus, hippocampus, insula, somatosensory cortex , and anterior cingulate cortex, allowing for a nuanced representation of the physiological state of the body. See Wikpedia for more information. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interoception

Magnetic resonance imaging: A procedure that uses magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to create pictures of areas inside the body.

PET Scan: Positron emission tomography or PET is an imaging test which uses dye containing radioactive tracers. These tracers are either swallowed, inhaled, or injected depending upon the area of the body being examined. The low level radioactive tracer positrons can be used to understand the brain regions involved in doing mental tasks.

Tensor-Based Morphometry: An morphometric analysis of MRI digital data to obtain measures of brain volume and regional differences in brain structure.

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