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In the News: Brain Calisthenics, Bilingual Brains, Debunking Myths on Mental Illness

Let us high­light a cou­ple of insight­ful and brief arti­cles in the New York Times and a very pow­er­ful analy­sis in The New York Review of Books; they pro­vide use­ful clues about Brain Cal­is­then­ics, Bilin­gual Brains, and Debunk­ing Myths on Men­tal Ill­ness.

Brain Cal­is­then­ics for Abstract Ideas (NYT):

Now, a small group of cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists is argu­ing that schools and stu­dents could take far more advan­tage of this same bot­tom-up abil­i­ty, called per­cep­tu­al learn­ing. The brain is a pat­tern-recog­ni­tion machine, after all, and when focused prop­er­ly, it can quick­ly deep­en a person’s grasp of a prin­ci­ple, new stud­ies sug­gest.

The chal­lenge for edu­ca­tion, Dr. Kell­man added, “is what do we need to do to make this hap­pen effi­cient­ly?”

Experts devel­op such sen­si­tive per­cep­tu­al radar the old-fash­ioned way, of course, through years of study and prac­tice. Yet there is grow­ing evi­dence that a cer­tain kind of train­ing — visu­al, fast-paced, often focused on clas­si­fy­ing prob­lems rather then solv­ing them — can build intu­ition quick­ly.

The Bilin­gual Advan­tage (NYT):

Q. Many immi­grants choose not to teach their chil­dren their native lan­guage. Is this a good thing?

A. I’m asked about this all the time. Peo­ple e‑mail me and say, “I’m get­ting mar­ried to some­one from anoth­er cul­ture, what should we do with the chil­dren?” I always say, “You’re sit­ting on a poten­tial gift.”

There are two major rea­sons peo­ple should pass their her­itage lan­guage onto chil­dren. First, it con­nects chil­dren to their ances­tors. The sec­ond is my research: Bilin­gual­ism is good for you. It makes brains stronger. It is brain exer­cise.

The Epi­dem­ic of Men­tal Ill­ness: Why? (The New York Review of Books):

The authors empha­size dif­fer­ent aspects of the epi­dem­ic of men­tal ill­ness. Kirsch is con­cerned with whether anti­de­pres­sants work. Whitak­er, who has writ­ten an angri­er book, takes on the entire spec­trum of men­tal ill­ness and asks whether psy­choac­tive drugs cre­ate worse prob­lems than they solve. Car­lat, who writes more in sor­row than in anger, looks main­ly at how his pro­fes­sion has allied itself with, and is manip­u­lat­ed by, the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try. But despite their dif­fer­ences, all three are in remark­able agree­ment on some impor­tant mat­ters, and they have doc­u­ment­ed their views well.

First, they agree on the dis­turb­ing extent to which the com­pa­nies that sell psy­choac­tive drugs—through var­i­ous forms of mar­ket­ing, both legal and ille­gal, and what many peo­ple would describe as bribery—have come to deter­mine what con­sti­tutes a men­tal ill­ness and how the dis­or­ders should be diag­nosed and treat­ed.

Sec­ond, none of the three authors sub­scribes to the pop­u­lar the­o­ry that men­tal ill­ness is caused by a chem­i­cal imbal­ance in the brain.

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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