Child of the Dream

With all my chattering about how attentive Carly is, and she is, at the same time Carly is often eyes-wide-open-vacant, dreamy. Sitting at her buffet this lovely morning there it was - the stare. Bread and egg in her hand, Carly was off in another dimension. I had to bring her back with a direct look and smile. She giggled.

Themes: 
brain
brain development
parenting

The Developing Brain Part Six

Nate Jones: Bringing Brain Science Home, Epigenetics at Work

Our featured interview with Nate Jones, a tire mechanic, is a ‘must see’. It is as or more important than any in The Academy and has deep, even profound implications for anyone interested in how children grow and learn.

Yes, the brain develops and there is a lot of talk about how this happens. The best teachers apply abstract concepts. Bev Bos translated the latest neuroscience into water, sand, clay, paints and swinging movement. Frank Wilson, MD., says, yes, indeed the brain developed over millions of years by interacting with a living three-dimensional world. For humans this interaction, touch and movement were led by the hand.

For 30 years Chris Mercogliano was the co-director of the Albany Free School. Chris wrote In Defense of Childhood where he marched back through time and demonstrated how fear, the changing family and technology conspired to ‘domesticate’ childhood after World War Two. Domesticate means to tame, to control, limit and constrain. We have domesticated our children by restricting what they do with their hands. A domesticated brain is fundamentally different than a wild brain.

Wild in this sense means a brain that developed by interacting with three dimensional objects and living nature. Technology compressed the living world into a two dimensional flat experience. Since the 1990’s this flat, dead experience has increasingly shaped the developing brains of our children. Nate Jones, sitting in his dusty tire shop, a backdrop for the Long Beach Formula One Grand Prix, describes how the domestication Chris writes about changed the brain of the young men by changing what boys do with their hands. The interview is an hour. That is a long time in our nano-second attention deficit world. Nate is a great story teller. Sit back, grab some popcorn and enjoy the ride. Your views of what is fundamental to every child’s developing brain will never be the same.

Themes: 
brain
brain development
three dimensional learning

The Developing Brain Part Five

Frank Wilson, MD., The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture

Fifth in our Developing Brain series is a fascinating and paradigm shifting interview with Frank Wilson, MD., author of The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture, which is actually part one of two related interviews, paired with Nate Jones, a racecar tire specialist. The concept developed in these two interviews is that the body and the way it moves has a direct impact on the capacity and quality of what we imagine, imagination in this case being how we relate to imagined challenges in three dimensions. This capacity is directly related to a child’s early developmental experiences. The prevailing notion is that thought is independent from the body. We immobilize young children in confining rows of chairs and have them give attention to highly abstract symbolic processes, 2 +2 = 5, I mean 4. Look at children today and they sit or stand, head bowed, thumbs pounding on a phone or tablet for eight to ten hours a day. Why is this important? Frank and Nate share a number of fascinating insights about this.

Themes: 
Embodied imagination
brain
brain development

The Developing Brain Part Four

Marian C. Diamond, PhD. - The Constantly Adapting Brain

Marian C. Diamond, Ph.D, a neuroscientist at U.C Berkeley did research on the neuroanatomy of the forebrain, notably the impact of the environment on brain development, published under the title Enriching Heredity: The Impact of the Environment on the Anatomy of the Brain. Marian describes how rich interaction with the environment literally grows and shapes the brain lifelong. “There are a hundred billion nerve cells in a brain and many of those nerve cell can make connections with thousands of others. A single nerve cell can receive as much input from about 20,000 other cells, so you think of the computation that goes on in a single cell before it fires. The interaction of the environment with this system is extremely dynamic and important. One can say that the brain is responding to the external environment and to the internal environment at all times. The nerve cells are designed to receive stimuli, store information and transmit information.  Every cell receives input from both the internal and the external environment at all times.  And we've shown that we can (physically) change the brain by changing the internal and external environments at any age.”

Themes: 
brain
brain development
child development

The Developing Brain Part Three

Feelings, the very core of the mind – with Jaak Panksepp, PhD

In the current featured interview recorded at the recent APPPAH congress, Jaak Panksepp, PhD, describes how in 1965, “there was no conversation about the nature of emotions at that time, certainly not in the sense of understanding affective feelings deeply at the neuroscience level.” So he gradually started developing the field, which is now called Affective Neuroscience, which has deep implications for understanding ourselves as creatures of the world and what we share with the other creatures. Obvious to some but shocking to many, human beings and animals share more than most imagine. “Many people, including myself, have argued that the fundamental mental processes are shared by all mammals, because of their neural similarities. Then one might ask what is at the very core of the mind? What was the first form of mind and experience that existed on the face of the earth? I would say it’s feelings.”

Themes: 
brain
brain development
emotions

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