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

Never pick a fight with a toddler

Outside our gallery on a busy tourist sidewalk a frustrated three year old sits on the ground and refuses to budge. Her mother is furious. “No,” shouts the little one. “Get up right this minute!” Again, “No,” cries the toddler. The mother reaches down, grabs the now screaming girl by the legs, holds her up-sided-down and shakes her violently, while the raging woman’s husband and older child stand by - saying nothing. This is what happens when we pick a fight with a toddler. No one wins and the collateral damage, long term, is crippling. What goes around – comes around. Maybe not right away, at age ten or fifteen or twenty five.

Themes: 
avoiding conflect
Original Play
parenting

Beyond Being Patient

Being patient implies waiting for something. Though passive, there still seems to be an effort, and deeper still perhaps even subtle conflicts. Because of this, I don’t like being patient with Carly. Being patient isn’t good enough.

It rained today. Carly stomped out in her rain boots, sloshed to the car and knocked on the door. ‘Do you want in,’ I asked. She nodded and I opened the door. Carly crawled up the driver’s seat and began turning all the knobs like the pilot of a 747. Playing with the knobs was not on my list. I thought I had other things to do. It became clear. I had a choice. I could sit there and be patient or I could surrender and, to use a phrase, ‘be here now.’

More with Robbie Davis-Floyd, PhD

Having known Robbie for twenty plus years I assure you that our recent interview is powerful. Here is how it begins. “I started asking questions…”

Themes: 
Birth As A Cultural Initiation

Pages