5 Facts About The Baby’s Brain Parents Must Know via @PatFurstenberg

5 Facts About The Baby’s Brain Parents Must Know

A baby’s arrival is welcomed with excitement and apprehension. We prepare for it by buying tiny clothes, a mountain of nappies, furniture to fill an entire room and the boot of our cars — and this is just the beginning. Between antenatal classes and parenting books, no wonder there isn’t any time left for extra information.

Neuroscientists, with the aid of brain-imaging tools, can study the changes that take place in the human brain when we think, read or learn. Their findings shine a new light on how the human brain actually works and how parents can help enhance their children’s educational experiences and life achievements.

Baby Brain Fact #1: First Three Month Of Life Are Crucial For The Baby’s Brain

Full-term babies

The brain of a newborn baby birthed at full term is only a quarter of the total size of an adult brain. Therefore specialists consider the first three months of life as the fourth trimester of pregnancy. It is during these first three months of the newborn’s life that his brain develops enough for the baby to become mature enough to adapt to his surroundings and to begin to socialise.

When infants are born before full term

Inductions were regarded as highly fashionable between the Eighties and until the end of the 20th century. As soon as a pregnancy reached its 37th week (with 40 weeks being full term), it was considered “close enough” and inductions and C-sections were being scheduled. It was the increased number of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) that made obstetricians reconsider the meaning of “term pregnancy“.

Researchers noted that the brains of the infants born at 37 weeks were 5 percent smaller than the average. By the third months of life, the difference between the preterm babies and the full-term babies became smaller, but the preterm babies hadn’t fully caught up — their brain size remaining “2 percent smaller than the average” a neurology study showed.

Newborn baby MRI

Image above: The brain scan on the left is taken from a newborn, and the one on the right is taken 90 days later. Credit: Dominic Holland et al., University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Baby Brain Fact #2: Talking To A Baby Stimulates Its Brain

Talking to babies and even reading to them helps boost their brain power, researchers say, and the differences begin to show as early as two years of age. Chatting with infants helps them pick up the rhythm and the rules of language, and repetition helps them learn vocabulary.

The same principles apply to using facial expressions to communicate with an infant, as this will help them decipher and understand human emotions. At such a young age the prefrontal cortex (implicated in behaviour and personality expression) is not fully developed, so the fear of “spoiling” an infant by giving them too much attention is unjustified.

Baby Brain Fact #3: The Brain Develops During Our Entire Life

The first birthday is an important milestone for the toddler’s brain as well, as it would have reached 60 percent of its adult size. The circumference of the human head will reach 90 percent of its adult size by the age of six, yet the brain will only be fully matured at the age of 25.

Neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain continues to develop — forming new neural pathways and pruning old, weak ones throughout our lives. Also, due to the brain’s plasticity, if an area of the human brain is lost the remaining brain area will, in time, develop to compensate for the missing sector.

Our genetic package provides the basic blueprint for brain development, but the stimulation an infant and child experiences provide the foundation for future learning.

Baby Brain Fact #4: Lantern vs Flashlight Awareness

Although a baby’s brain has many more neural connections compared to the adult brain, to protect them in a harsh world their brain has less inhibitory neurotransmitters.

As a result, they perceive the main picture, but focus less on details, just like a lantern that illuminates the entire room in a diffuse way. By comparison, the adult brain will focus on details, very much like a flashlight that focuses its light on specific details.

Baby Brain Fact #5: DVDs Out, Experiences In

From birth, babies respond to some stimuli and ignore others. DVDs, flashcards — these leave baby unresponsive. What babies love is human interaction, and later on, first-hand experiences.

Keep in mind that babies get bored quickly, as they have a short attention span, so parents need to vary the games. Also, too much stimulation will soon tire the baby.

Interesting to notice is that babies don’t hear as well as we do, which explains why crying is not bothering them!

Also, babies can’t distinguish voices from background noise as well as adults do — so if you want your infant to pay attention to you, it is advised to switch off the TV.

And music? Yes, babies do love music, but this should be approached as an activity, limited by time and cued to baby’s attention span.

* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article was initially published on Huffington Post SA on 9 May 2018

You might also like to read:

5 Medical Symptoms Named After Literary Characters

5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

 

 

Follow this blog:
error

Mind-Brain-Education Secrets: Strategies to Benefit Students and Teachers #MBE #mind #brain #education #educhat #knowledge #strategy #students via @PatFurstenberg

Mind-Brain-Education Secrets:  Strategies to Benefit Students and Teachers

1. What is Mind-Brain-Education (MBE)?

MBE is a young science started at Harvard University 25 years ago by uniting the fields of neuroscience, psychology and education. MBE brings together cognitive neuroscience (studying of the mind and its processes), behavioral science (studying the interactions among different organisms in the world) and professionals in the education field. MBE takes the latest discoveries in brain science and applies them in education, revealing new, more appropriate teaching methods lined up with the latest studies and the demands of the 21st century.

2. Why is MBE important to me, a parent, teacher or student?

The human brain, the most complex organ in the human body, is the centre of our nervous system. We need our not only brain to move, make use of our senses or regulate the functions of our body but also to speak, think, learn, and interact with the world around us.

Let’s think of the brain as the engine of a car. By understanding the basic aspects of engineering we can reduce its fuel consumption, saving money and lengthening the life of our car.

Understanding how the brain develops and functions we can learn how to better make use of its massive power.

The development of the human brain follows a natural, biological process yet it constantly changes, developing and adapting to our experiences, be it emotional, physical or educational. So not only does the educator needs to teach content, but he also has to be mindful of the ways in which he teaches and use subject-tailored methods to ensure a better educational outcome.

Understanding why each individual’s brain is unique means that we understand that each one’s brain develops at its own pace and that teaching can and should be tailored to individual needs.

The concept of brain plasticity is vital to grasp as well. The brain’s plasticity means that our brains are permanently remodeling themselves by cutting old, unused neural pathways and strengthening new ones, reinforced through practice. This is a fantastic trait of our brains; understanding its mechanism and how to make the most of it can have positive, long lasting effects on individual’s education and long term life goals.

Understanding how the human brain evolves from birth through childhood, teen years and going on throughout our lives, allow teachers to prioritize and plan the educational curriculum accordingly. This is crucial in aiding students to focus in class and in developing effective, intelligent methods that help them remember more information, easier.

Analogical reasoning, or considering the ways in which two ideas are related, is the way in which our brains make sense of new concepts, by explaining them based on what we already know, connecting and comparing new information to old one. A classic example of analogy reasoning is comparing the structure of an atom with the solar system:

“The nucleus is the sun and electrons are the planets revolving around their sun.”

Relational thinking means finding meaningful patterns in new situations and using this to make a decision, for example a physician correcting his diagnosis by taking into consideration the abnormal symptoms displayed by his patient. The bases and neural pathways for analogical and relational thinking are laid during childhood and until adolescence and they are crucial skills needed by the 21st century work force.

3. How do I use the MBE knowledge?

Understanding how our brains differ from one person to another based on our genes, personal abilities and the context of our upbringing is an important factor to consider in the 21st century educational field.

Although MBE is still a very young science, it is vital to understand that brain science, psychology and education are strongly interrelated and that modern, 21st century education cannot happen without 21st century psychology on one side and 21st century brain science on the other side. MBE shines a spotlight on the uniqueness of each individual’s brain, on how its biological mechanisms influence how we learn and that our past experiences and the environment also affect our brain’s development and learning. MBE helps us understand how powerful our brain is, how much we can actually do with it and how we can better use it to our advantage.

Using the MBE knowledge might not bring a change or show improvement overnight. As with any cognitive skill, it takes time and practice as well as a clear idea of the desired outcome.

The knowledge MBE reveals can be used in:

  • helping to develop the critical cognitive skills needed by Generation Z;
  • understanding the brain-based causes of different learning disabilities such as dyslexia and how to apply the latest research in identifying these children at an early stage and helping them achieve their best in school by providing them with the necessary cognitive and educational support ;
  • understanding that, although we all have genetic predispositions and abilities, these have little to do with our success as a learner. With the right support, stimulation and a suitable learning environment even a modest background can be maximized beyond expectations;
  • preparing graduates in this new work field, with US Universities already offering master’s degrees and a doctoral programme in MBE. There are also short term study alternatives available. In Africa, the First Mind-Brain and Education Seminar already took place.

4. How is MBE different than what we knew about education before?

We know that the best time to learn is when the brain and the nervous system are still maturing during childhood and through the teenage years. MBE shines a light on the importance of the school curriculum as well as the methods of teaching. MBE explains why laying down the physical wiring (neural connections) during the formative years will only benefit the young generation later on when such neural connections, already in place, need only be reinforced. For example in the relational thinking field when the neural pathways and connections formed in the brain are laid out during the formative years, before adolescence.

21st century jobs require novel skills. We work less with our hands and more with our brains while being required to learn and remember more and more information. MBE can help us better accumulate this information, integrating it and manage its volume, filtering and remembering it. Here is where we understand why good analogical and relational thinking skills play such an important role, more than ever before in the history of human education.

5. How can MBE help you acquire a 21st century job?

We all agree that in order to succeed in the 21st century student’s knowledge must now go beyond the “three Rs” (“reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”.and basic computer literacy. No student in the history of education has ever needed to cover such a multifaceted array of topics.

Chances are that in your family or at your office there are at least four generations present, working side-by-side. But different generations of employees will have different motivations and would have required different skills when they first entered the workforce.

Mind brain education - Comparison of qualities, values, qualifications of different generations, Patricia Furstenberg
Mind brain education – Comparison of qualities, values, qualifications of different generations, Patricia Furstenberg

According to Global Digital Citizen and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, the most important 21st-century skills students will need are:

  • Problem Solving
  • Creativity / Innovation
  • Analytic Thinking
  • Collaboration / Team work
  • Oral and Written Communication
  • Ethics, Action, and Accountability
  • Diversity (global thinking and global citizens)
  • Information Technology Application
  • Leadership
  • Lifelong learning / Self Direction
  • Social Responsibility

Only innovation in the classroom will help students gain these 21st century skills and MBE can provide educators, parents and students with the knowledge and the tools on how to acquire them. There is still a huge gap between the skills required by 21st century companies and the skills taught in schools. This gap exists because technology evolves in leaps, becoming challenging to keep up with while incorporating it in the school curriculum. This is why teaching students how to learn, how to accumulate information in a proficient way and how to make the most of the power that the human brain has will equip them with the basics needed to face the challenges of a 21st century work field.

Follow this blog:
error

Pets — Understanding Your Child’s Affinity Towards Animals via @PatFurstenberg

Pets — Understanding Your Child’s Affinity Towards Animals

How does a child react when interacting with an animal? Smiling, the entire body filled with enthusiasm and exhilaration? Small fingers enjoying and learning from the experience of touching the pet’s fur? Watchful eyes fixed on the animal and, you just know it, questions about to start pouring?

Or perhaps a child may close his eyes to feel the pet he is holding, to become one with it… “I am a horse…” “I am a rabbit…” “I am a lion cub on the African plains…” “I am alive!” Children, just like animals, live in the present; where the heart pulsates and the wind is fragrant, if only you pay attention.

When a child meets an animal, there is a much stronger connection that takes place. It goes beyond the sensory or the visual stimulation of touching and observing. For a child, being in the company of an animal is more significant than the educational lesson adults want them to take from it.

A biological connection is already in place when a child and an animal meet. Be it an animal or an insect, just by being different to us, they a child’s attention –– in most cases, to stir his or her caring and nurturing instinct. Children have it in their hearts: the empathy, the understanding that what is small needs to be protected, as well as the desire and the need to look after it and nurture it.

As Kahlil Gibran put it, “Your children are not your children; they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”

Human’s interest in animals is wired into our DNA.

Biophilia” was defined in 1984 by E.O.Wilson as “the innate tendency [in human beings] to focus on life and lifelike process. To an extent still undervalued in philosophy and religion, our existence depends on this propensity, our spirit is woven from it, hopes rises on its currents”. The disposition towards nature and the living is prominent in youngsters. Children flourish when they are outdoors, especially when interacting with living animals.

Children value creatures for what they really are, alive. A kid connects with a ladybird just as well as she bonds with a kitten or a horse. When we take our children to the zoo, the link (unseen, between children and animals) is already in place.

The invisible wire is what keeps our youngster glued to the cage of an elephant, or the aquarium and its penguins. The child has “seen” more than the animal in its natural habitat. He treasures and celebrates having met another living being. And this moment often becomes one of a child’s most treasured memories.

What is different from us should and can be treasured, just because it is puzzling and thrilling and, at the same time, stimulating.

Think about how much children enjoy stories about animals. Why is that? Wild animals live in “shelters” that are different from ours, and which they build themselves! Animals find their own, food and it is often strange-looking and so different from ours. Animals can do so many other things we haven’t seen any human being doing. Animals choose their own special lives, and we are but blessed to be a part of them –– to observe and enjoy them.

If this is not enough, there is also an added benefit to children’s natural bond with living things. Studies show that when a child’s innate love and care towards nature is being nurtured and encouraged, it not only fuels the child’s inner desire to learn, but in the long run, it develops the child emotionally.

Children who are understood and encouraged to care for animals will grow into thoughtful adults with a higher EQ (Emotional Quotient). An individual with a high EQ will be better able to recognise and express their own emotions, as well as the emotions of those around them. They will be able to easily put them into words and analyse them, then react in consequence –– a vital task in improving our social skills and, by extension, the social welfare of each generation.

Initially published on the Huffington Post SA on 5 November 2017

You might also like to read:

Haiku-San, Silver Birds

How To Raise A Child With A High IQ

Follow this blog:
error

How To Raise A Child With A High IQ by @PatFurstenberg

Raising a child is the most difficult job in the world. The decisions made by parents will model and impact upon the child’s emotional and intellectual well-being.

Parenting is a full-time job on its own, without the added pressure of medical literature, in-law advice or trying to keep up with that perfect family always posting on Facebook.

“Once upon a time I was a perfect parent. Then I had children. The End.”

In his book “Brain Rules For Baby“, developmental molecular biologist and dad Dr John Medina, bridges the gap between what scientists know and what parents practise.

  1. Baby’s IQ during the 1st trimester of pregnancy

An adult human brain contains about 100-billion neurons formed before we are born. The embryo’s brain produces approximately 250,000 cells per minute, most generated as early as week three and during the first four months of gestation.

Take an BMI Certified IQ test here.

All throughout your pregnancy, stay away from potentially harmful substances like smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs – even over-the-counter drugs. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Scientists studying human evolution attest that morning sickness kicked in as an ancestral mechanism forcing the mother to stay away from toxic, potentially spoiled or exotic foods that might harm the embryo. One of the hormones inducing morning sickness is also a stimulant for the development of neurons in the embryo’s brain.

  1. Baby’s IQ throughout the pregnancy

A mother’s weight gain during pregnancy is vital to the well-being of her unborn baby. A study shows that a foetus’ IQ grows in proportion to its weight gain while inside the mother’s womb. A pregnant woman with healthy weight gain, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle will influence the weight of her newborn positively.

A pregnancy vitamin supplement rich in folic acid and omega 3 is indicated.

And food cravings?

Studies have proved that food cravings are stress related, not pointing towards a vitamin deficiency. An anxious woman used to giving in to chocolate during stressful times will most probably go on craving chocolate whenever she hits a stressful time during pregnancy.

  1. A stressful pregnancy and baby’s IQ

If a pregnant woman is stressed, anxious or depressed, this can affect how the baby’s brain will develop. Research shows that the child will be at greater risk of slow learning or behavioural problems such as ADHD.

Severe stress suffered by mothers during pregnancy can have the following consequences for the baby:

  • Change the foetus’ body temperature, making the baby more irritable in the womb;
  • Reduce the baby’s IQ (by up to eight points);
  • Affect the baby’s motor skills, attention span and concentration – visible from six years of age;
  • Affect the baby’s own response to stressful situations; and
  • Even reduce the baby’s brain size.

“Researchers at Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University followed more than 150 families after a severe storm, and found specific markers on the DNA of children whose mothers were pregnant or became pregnant soon after the disaster, providing rare evidence of how maternal hardships can have long-term genetic consequences.”

A good solution to reduce stress is being active.

Staying active during pregnancy

Women who have an active lifestyle and engage in regular physical activities during pregnancy have an easier birthing experience – shorter and less painful.

Pregnant women are advised to stay active and do mild exercise, without pushing it too hard.

During the third trimester, the best sport for a pregnant woman is swimming. It is a low-impact sport and keeps the pregnant woman’s body temperature constant, so her uterus does not overheat.

Attention!

  • Intense physical activity will reduce the blood supply to the uterus, which will decrease the oxygen supply to the foetus.
  • If the pregnant woman’s body temperature is raised by more than two degrees Celsius, this can negatively affect the cerebral and visual development of the foetus during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Family relationships during pregnancy

Dr John Medina points out that during the first year of the baby’s life, the number of hostile interactions between the new parents is often on the rise. Specialists believe that this can be harmful to the baby, which is very sensitive to external factors at the beginning of its life.

A prolonged exposure to hostility can have a negative impact on the baby, lowering its IQ and its ability to manage stress later in life.

During the first year of life, a baby’s main cognitive focus is on survival. Once the baby forms an attachment with its main caregiver, its brain can develop normally, resulting in a happy, sociable baby able to manage stressful situations.

If the baby cannot feel this trust and safety, then the genetic code tells its brain to develop in a different way – with a negative impact on its social, emotional and educational prospects.

The ingredients that contribute towards the making of a clever child:

  • Breastfeeding can raise a baby’s IQ by up to eight points;
  • Talking to a baby and a child about various topics will expose the child to a wider vocabulary;
  • Playing games with your child will stimulate the child’s mind;
  • As will engaging your child in music and sports.

Raising a child is the most difficult job in the world. The decisions made by parents will model and impact upon the child’s emotional and intellectual well-being, the character of the future adult. Yet it is good to acknowledge that these decisions are unique to each family, and each parent can adjust their parenting skills at any time throughout this roller-coaster journey.

* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article was written for Huffington Post SA.

Huffington Post SA
HuffPostSA

You might also be interested in:

5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps 

 

Follow this blog:
error

Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg
Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg
Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg

Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

“Readers are leaders”, said one great teacher; leaders of their own lives. Being able to understand what is expected of us beyond our job description or mastering those psychometric tests in a job interview could be life changing situations. Turning that first date into a success or having the ability to understand (and survive) our partner’s emotional needs are, definitely, lifesaving situations. What all of these occasions call for are our wits and… empathy. So relax; you’re not the odd one out if, at times, you feel for your boss. You should be celebrating instead.

Here’s when and why reading comes into our lives.

You know that special feeling when enjoying a good book? At first the world around us seems to be fading away as we’ve happily secluded ourselves. Then, after closing that volume, we feel like we’ve just roused from a daydream. “Oh, this place is still here… Look, my family!” Not surprisingly to discover that we can connect with them on a deeper level because we can now read (surprise!) their emotions so much better: like under a spotlight!

Empathising with those around us is the epitome of human evolution. The scientific world refers to it as the Theory of Mind (ToM) and research shows that, apparently, improving one’s ability to “read” people’s emotions is as easy as picking up a work of literary fiction. Psychologists Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd proved in their scientific study Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind published in Science just that.

“Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires.”

By assigning different reading material to a number of participants and afterwards testing them Castano and Kidd have been able to measure how well the subjects identified emotions in others. The readers of literary fiction scored, by far, the highest.

TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg1 – No reading or non-fiction reading will NOT improve the subject’s ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Theory of Mind, Castano & Kidd)
TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg2 – Reading Popular Fiction insignificantly enhances the subject’s ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Theory of mind, Castano & Kidd)
TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg3 – Reading Literary Fiction temporarily enhances the subject’s performance and his ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Roland Barthes)

Can You Read People’s Emotions? Take The Times quiz.

Why we need empathy – and books – in South Africa

From a parent’s point of view I certainly want my children to be successful in life.

Reading impacts greatly on a child’s evolving mind and, apart from its neurological, educational and psychological benefits, by improving their empathy reading helps children socialise at school and thrive in life.

Besides knowledge, sharpening a child’s empathic skills is just as important. If a clever brain is measured through its IQ (Intelligence Quotient), an empathic mind is measured through its EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). A person with a high EQ will be able to better understand his own emotions as well as be able to better relate to the emotional status of those around him – thus improving his social skills and, eventually, the general social welfare of his generation.

Empathy is also proved to be crucial to a child in peer-pressure situations. Empathic children are less violent and develop into adults with a lower risk of emotional or behavioural problems later in life, violence and substance abuse included. (Did you feel as if you hated people?)

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a world where technology is omnipresent and social issues are on the rise; during a time when the rift between communities widens and the politics, not the civility, governs; when social indifference, not social compassion seem to be ruling our lives; when today’s major subject couldn’t be further away from tomorrow’s job and when employment policies, not work equity seem to rule, a new generation of readers, of emphatic human beings, is more in demand than ever before. “Fiction may change how, not just what, people think about others.” (Kidd, Castano)

5 Ways to foster empathy in our children

5 Ways to foster empathy in our children

5 Reasons why we need more good books in our lives

  1. Reading promotes empathy, helping us better understand other’s emotional state, a stepping stone to build meaningful relationships and more human societies.
  2. Reading promotes social welfare by bringing people together through enjoyable means.
  3. Reading develops consciousness; when one reads information is being absorbed on a conscious as well as unconscious way.
  4. Reading enriches our lives.
  5. Reading stimulates the intellect and the soul.

Surely reading literary fiction couldn’t be the only way to improve one’s ToM. Art, movies and musical performances also come into light.

I may not have read all the volumes of Hugo’s Les Miserables, but I remember watching the movie. The character of Jean Valjean still gives me goose bumps. Perhaps a 21st century musical production would be just as effective?

It would be interesting to find out if and how coming in contact with other works of art influences one’s empathic levels.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Proposed literary fiction for your child

“I cannot remember the books I have read any more than the meals I have eaten; but they have all helped to make me.” (Emerson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read further on the Huffington Post South Africa, a post by Patricia Furstenberg.

Huffington Post SA

Follow this blog:
error