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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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