November 11, 2010

What Makes You Uniquely You?


Feb 2009

Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman says your brain is one-of-a-kind in the history of the universe.

Some of the most profound questions in science are also the least tangible. What does it mean to be sentient? What is the self? When issues become imponderable, many researchers demur, but neuro­scientist Gerald Edelman dives right in.

A physician and cell biologist who won a 1972 Nobel Prize for his work describing the structure of antibodies, Edelman is now obsessed with the enigma of human consciousness—except that he does not see it as an enigma. In Edelman’s grand theory of the mind, consciousness is a biological phenomenon and the brain develops through a process similar to natural selection. Neurons proliferate and form connections in infancy; then experience weeds out the useless from the useful, molding the adult brain in sync with its environment.

Edelman first put this model on paper in the Zurich airport in 1977 as he was killing time waiting for a flight. Since then he has written eight books on the subject, the most recent being Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge. He is chairman of neurobiology at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego and the founder and director of the Neurosciences Institute, a research center in La Jolla, California, dedicated to unconventional “high risk, high payoff” science.

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November 10, 2010

“What Babies Want” – An exploration of the Consciousness of Infants


DVD Documentary starring Charlie Rose, Noah Wyle, and Joseph Chilton Pearce.

What Babies Want is an award winning documentary film that explores the profoundly important and sacred opportunity we have in bringing children into the world. Filled with captivating stories and infused with Noah Wyle’s warmth as narrator, the film demonstrates how life patterns are established at birth and  before. The documentary includes groundbreaking information on early development as well as appearances by the real experts: babies and families.

Research is now showing us that our society is a product of how we welcome and raise our children. When babies are welcomed with love and warmth and given the immediate opportunity to bond with parents,  they develop minds that are coherent and flexible, ready in turn to make compassionate and meaningful connections with others as they grow.

As we learn how early relationships shape the structure and function of the brain, we are also gaining a new appreciation of the wisdom of ancient cultures that understood the importance of welcoming children before, during and after the moment of birth.

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November 2, 2010

Fear in Love: Attachment, Abuse, and the Developing Brain

From: The Dana Foundation

Editor’s note: Why do abused children attach and remain attached to abusive parents? In this article, Dr. Regina Sullivan explains how her research with rat pups has led to greater understanding of the infant brain, and how negative early experiences can cause long-term genetic, brain, behavioral, and hormonal changes that can affect not only the abuse victim but also the victim’s descendants.

Many parents have absolute faith that, with the right kind of stimulation, they can give their child an educational advantage. Conscientious mothers play Mozart to the baby in the womb, take their toddlers to Mommy and Me dance classes, and work their way through preschool applications as daunting as those for medical school. Yet even with the wide range of advantages available for infants today, many people are still surprised when I tell them that the way they treat their children will actually change the structure and circuitry of the child’s brain.

Click here to read the entire article

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May 19, 2009

Learning, Arts, and the Brain: the Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition

From the Dana Foundation: The Dana Foundation released at a news conference on March 4, Learning, Arts, and the Brain, a three-year study at seven universities, which finds strong links between arts education and cognitive development. Speakers included Michael Gazzaniga, Ph.D., UC, Santa Barbara; Michael Posner, Ph.D., University of Oregon;  Elizabeth Spelke, Ph.D., Harvard University  and Brian Wandell, Ph.D., Stanford University.  Guy Mckhann, M.D., Johns Hopkins University gave a summary and Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts spoke of the study’s importance to the field of education.

Click here for the webcast archive.

Click here for the event transcript.

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January 17, 2009

Learning, Arts, and the Brain: The Dana Consortium Report

From the Dana Foundation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain, a study three years in the making, is the result of research by cognitive neuroscientists from seven leading universities across the United States. In the Dana Consortium study, released in March 2008, researchers grappled with a fundamental question: Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?

For the first time, coordinated, multi-university scientific research brings us closer to answering that question.  Learning, Arts, and the Brain advances our understanding of the effects of music, dance, and drama education on other types of learning. Children motivated in the arts develop attention skills and strategies for memory retrieval that also apply to other subject areas.

The research was led by Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga of the University of California at Santa Barbara. “A life-affirming dimension is opening up in neuroscience,” said Dr. Gazzaniga, “to discover how the performance and appreciation of the arts enlarge cognitive capacities will be a long step forward in learning how better to learn and more enjoyably and productively to live.  The consortium’s new findings and conceptual advances have clarified what now needs to be done.”

Click here for complete article

Click here to download a a PDF version of the full report (2MB)

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October 31, 2008

Is surfing the internet altering your brain?

From Reuters: CANBERRA (Reuters) – The Internet is not just changing the way people live but altering the way our brains work with a neuroscientist arguing this is an evolutionary change which will put the tech-savvy at the top of the new social order.

Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA in California who specializes in brain function, has found through studies that Internet searching and text messaging has made brains more adept at filtering information and making snap decisions.

But while technology can accelerate learning and boost creativity it can have drawbacks as it can create Internet addicts whose only friends are virtual and has sparked a dramatic rise in Attention Deficit Disorder diagnoses.

Small, however, argues that the people who will come out on top in the next generation will be those with a mixture of technological and social skills.

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October 29, 2007

Young minds — 3 papers

The journal Cognitive Development has released its latest issue, with a few interesting titles.

Among these, we here present three titles with direct impact on the study of consciousness. These cover topics as self-regulation in pre-schoolers, decision making in adolescence, and impulsivity and control in childhood.

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October 18, 2007

How Schizophrenia Develops: Major Clues Discovered

schizo.jpegSchizophrenia may occur, in part, because of a problem in an intermittent on/off switch for a gene involved in making a key chemical messenger in the brain, scientists have found in a study of human brain tissue. The researchers found that the gene is turned on at increasingly high rates during normal development of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in higher functions like thinking and decision-making — but that this normal increase may not occur in people with schizophrenia.

The gene, GAD1, makes an enzyme essential for production of the chemical messenger, called GABA. The more the gene is turned on, the more GABA synthesis can occur, under normal circumstances. GABA helps regulate the flow of electrical traffic that enables brain cells to communicate with each other. It is among the major neurotransmitters in the brain.

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February 20, 2007

Biological Psychiatry — Special issue on autism

autist.gifThe journal Biological Psychiatry has a special issue on the autism spectrum, its diagnosis and treatment.

It is a comprehensive yet diverse collection of multidisciplinary treatment of the issue, containing articles onautism and phenotypic homogeneity; cortical layering and thickness; cortical dysfunction; executive function and gaze fixation.

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October 1, 2006

Is consciousness socially constructed?

mother-child.jpgIn a new theory published in New Ideas in Psychology, consciousness is suggested to be the result of discourse. In other words, consciousness is socially constructed. It would be interesting to know how the author avoids a circularity in how the learning of a common thought, e.g. in development. For example, a child pointing at something which is later named by the caregiver already presupposes a conscious thought. This problem is also known for theories of thought as the internalization of speech, e.g. in the early work of Lev Vygotsky.

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March 4, 2006

Neonate self-awareness questioned

cognitive development — thomasr @ 12:28 pm

In this article Talia Welsh questions the long held view that newborn infants have an inborn primitive sense of self.

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January 26, 2006

Foetal pain reviewed

cognitive development — thomasr @ 12:03 am

When should we call a foetus a human being? When can we accept that the foetus experiences pain? According to this latest study by Mellor and colleagues, the current understanding of pain perception during development is still poorly understood.

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November 25, 2005

The origins of social emotions and self‐regulation in toddlerhood: New evidenc

cognitive development — thomasr @ 1:10 pm

Karen Caplovitz Barrett

Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA


In recent years, there has been increased attention to the development of “moral,” “social”, or “self‐conscious” emotions, such as embarrassment, shame, and pride, in 2‐ and 3‐year olds. In the present study, 17‐month‐olds’ behaviours in several contexts were observed; and observations of behaviours of their parents were obtained. Results indicated that toddlers did react appropriately to the situations, and their behaviours in the semi‐naturalistic situations cohered as three factors: a guilt factor, an embarrassment factor, and an anxiety/inhibition factor. Embarrassed behaviour included a smile accompanied by indications of embarrassment (gaze aversion, lip press, lip bite, and/or body touching/self‐adaptors). Moreover, parental behaviours systematically predicted children’s behaviour patterns, but self‐recognition was unrelated to most behaviours. Implications and suggestions for further research are discussed.

Cognition & Emotion

Issue: Volume 19, Number 7 / November 2005

Pages: 953 – 979

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September 7, 2005

Baby study suggests beauty is not in the eye of the beholder

cognitive development — thomasr @ 11:48 am

Babies come into the world with a genetic predisposition to favouring pretty faces rather than ugly ones, according to a new study.

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September 3, 2005

Fetuses may not feel pain until week 30

cognitive development — thomasr @ 5:44 am

They are “unlikely” to be able to feel pain until the last stage of pregnancy, a controversial US study claims, adding to the debate on abortion laws.

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April 5, 2005

Imagination gets its due as a real-world thinking tool

cognitive development — thomasr @ 6:11 am

Kids make some unusual friends. Take Simpy, an 8-year-old girl with blue skin and black eyes who likes funny clothes. Then, there’s Skateboard Guy. He wears cool shirts and performs amazing tricks on his fancy board, even though he’s small enough to chill out in a child’s pants pockets. Alicia is only a couple inches high, too, and she has a great sense of humor-for a talking dog with green fur and blue eyes.

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