15 May 2009

A Brain Changes Over Time: Make Yours Count

Anyone who has studied the behaviour of children, adolescents, and adults understands that -- beyond basic aptitude -- brains function differently at different ages and levels of experience. Now neuroscientists at WUSM in St. Louis have the beginning of an explanation for the differences -- adult brain centers learn to communicate quickly across greater distances.
The results have revealed that most of the connections in children's brains are formed between regions of the cortex that are physically close to each other. Conversely, in adults' brain, most such paths are created between distant brain regions, which are not functionally linked to each other. The scientists have also determined that kids have a very reduced number of long-distance brain connections, as opposed to adults, where this form of interaction is the standard. _Softpedia
The explanation sounds simple, but the reality is far more complex. The brain is plastic throughout life, but particularly during early childhood and adolescence. The mechanism for brain plasticity is defined genetically, and influenced by the brains environment in the womb and in infancy. The specifics of micro-plasticity of particular brain regions are strongly influenced by environment in childhood and adolescence. If a child learns a second language, is trained in music, or studies martial arts, for example, the brain organises itself differently.

Throughout childhood, myelination of brain pathways occurs from back to front -- from occipital to pre-frontal. The famous "developmental windows" of a child's brain correspond roughly to periods of regional myelination. A person's pre-frontal myelination may not be completed until the age of 25 or 30, suggesting that that person's brain is not fully functional (lacking in judgment and perspective) prior to that age. But in order to acquire the ability to communicate "by long distance", brain centers need more than well-myelinated neural connections.

They need to learn the neural language of synchronous oscillations, in order for enough complementary brain centers to be able to interact simultaneously to create rich and textured perceptions and conceptualisations. Closer brain centers tend to communicate via beta wave synchrony. Farther centers tend to use gamma wave synchrony. The significance of these distinctions is still being worked out.

Younger brains can certainly be as "intelligent" as older brains, in terms of IQ scores. But it is unlikely for a young brain to be able to achieve the complexity or efficiency of thought and action that an older brain can display, to say nothing of wisdom and perspective. Part of the difference may well be due to lack of experience / knowledge. Part may well be due to differences in myelination and underlying micro-connectivity.

Here is the huge problem we are facing as a society: modern educational and child-rearing methods are permanently handicapping the brains of our young, by missing critical "developmental windows". Large chunks of entire generations have been lost so far due to our societal dysfunction in this regard. And there are no signs that society is waking up -- quite the opposite in fact. A societal wide shortage of competence is likely to be the result.

As baby boomers start retiring, critical skills shortages will grow more acute. Besides being fewer in number, subsequent generations have been damaged more thoroughly by the wave of social engineering that hit university schools of education in the late 60s and early 70s. This damage to young minds is not slowing down, but is growing worse. Under the Obama / Pelosi reich -- which is most beholden to teachers' unions and more radical academics -- the brain killing machine will only grow larger and stronger.

In order to create a core of competent individuals and communities that will be able to best take advantage of the coming breakthroughs in genetics, neuroscience, and psycho-philosophy, it is important that large numbers of parents opt out of government education and other brain-stunting influences of popular and mainstream culture. As an atheist, I choose to be neither pro-religion nor anti-religion in the coming cultural schisms. There are larger things at stake.

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Blogger Martin Walker said...

Sobering thoughts, Al.

The process of education really hasn't ever been subjected to any kind of rigorous scientific examination. This is mind-boggling, as you point out, when we are stunting the intellectual development of entire generations.

Martin Walker
Effective, Affordable Brain Fitness Software

Saturday, 16 May, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes, all in the name of political power blocs. The social engineers are growing wealthy on misappropriated funds.

Meanwhile, home hobbyists are beginning to contract secretly with Oynklent Green [OTC:OYNK] to build local and regional thermochemical biofuel plants.

It never hurts to be prepared. ;-)

Sunday, 17 May, 2009  

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