Three Moments

At every moment new human beings are fully human. And yet, we somehow and too often underestimate how sensitive, appropriate, responsive and caring very young children are by nature. Very early, before Carly Elizabeth could crawl she was picking single threads off the carpet and examining them by turning the specimen between her tiny fingers. This evening at almost twenty months she was sitting in mama’s lap flipping pages of a book like a librarian. Earlier in the day Carly was climbing up on the back of a leather sofa, walking like a tight rope acrobat and falling-laughing perfectly in my arms. Of course she could have fallen off the other side and broken her leg or worse, but she didn’t. Her concentration and balance were keen. Why should she? There were no distractions.

Themes: 
parenting

Suicides in America - 30 Year High: The Dying of America - James W. Prescott, PhD

The unifying theme in Gabor Maté M.D.’s works is the long term consequences of impaired early attachment; ADHD, addiction and many stress related illnesses. What follows is an important extension of this thesis by James W. Prescott, PhD, on the rising tide of childhood suicide, something Joseph Chilton Pearce and others noted along with Jim many years ago.   Michael Mendizza

Themes: 
suicide

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

No, no, no, no, no…..!

The other day, while preparing her majesties’ morning buffet, I asked Carly Elizabeth if she would like some coconut, freshly cracked out of the shell. “No,” she replied, perfectly stated with a casual air. MaMa and TaTa, the Czech version of DaDa, had been flowing for several months along with the regular crop of toddler babbling. This was startlingly different. Since that beginning the variations of ‘no’ have replaced, more or less, Carly’s banter. “No, no, no, no, no” she sings or mumbles, shaking her head appropriately and with all the correct facial expressions. As predictable as this event is, everyday miracles take one’s breath away. Another milestone. Carly Elizabeth will never be the same, nor will I and Z.

Themes: 
language 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

The Developping Brain Part Two

The Anatomy of Joy with Jaak Panksepp, PhD

Jaak Panksepp, PhD, Emeritus Professor of the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University. Panksepp coined the term 'affective neuroscience', the name for the field that studies the neural mechanisms of emotion. "We finally got a handle on the nature of psychological pain, which is very important for depression and other psychiatric disorders.  And then we said well there must be something fundamental about the social principal that is in the arena of joy.  What would it be? And the answer was obvious that it must be playfulness.

Themes: 
brain
brain development
emotions
play

The Developing Brain

 
There is a lot of interest in brains and child development. Some years ago it was mirror neurons. Today it is epigenetics. Interesting indeed, but we all know that planting a seed in sand or not watering the begonias will retard growth and even kill the plant. We are not separate from the environment. We breathe it, ingest it. We live in a constant reciprocal relationship with the environment and our body and brain reflects this.

For the next few days we will be featuring six full interviews with five international and acclaimed neuroscientists and researchers. Featured programs are, as you know, open to everyone. Membership in the Academy is not required. Each will be live for two days. Enjoy.

Themes: 
brain
brain development

Distractions from What Is Real

Have you noticed? It’s getting pretty wacky out there: joggers bumping into street signs while texting. People seem generally stressed, not that this is new, just more, and it shows. The ice sheets are melting. Some predict “stratification” of the polar oceans will trigger a slowdown or even eventual shutdown of the circulation in the Atlantic Ocean and a weakening of another circulation system in the southern ocean. Isn’t a ‘shutdown of circulation’ what happens in a heart attack - of the planet?

Themes: 
language
children as teachers

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