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Kids for life? Pros and cons of lifelong neuroplasticity, as seen via our emotional development

– Win­dows of plas­tic­i­ty in brain devel­op­ment. Adapt­ed from Hen­sch T.K. (2005). Crit­i­cal peri­od plas­tic­i­ty in local cor­ti­cal cir­cuits. Nature Reviews Neu­ro­science, 6(11), 877–888

The Brain’s Emo­tion­al Devel­op­ment (Dana Foundation’s Cere­brum):

Humans are like­ly the most emo­tion­al­ly reg­u­lat­ed crea­tures on earth. Com­pared to oth­er ani­mal species, we can mod­u­late and mod­i­fy emo­tion­al reac­tions and expe­ri­ences, even very intense ones, through a large and sophis­ti­cat­ed emo­tion reg­u­la­tion reper­toire that includes skills of dis­trac­tion, reap­praisal, lan­guage, pre­dic­tion, social inter­ac­tion, sup­pres­sion, and more. At times, these skills require effort, and at oth­er times, they seem reflex­ive and auto­mat­ic. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.)

At a time when edu­ca­tors are pre­oc­cu­pied with stan­dards, test­ing, and the bot­tom line, some researchers sug­gest the arts can boost stu­dents’ test scores; oth­ers aren’t con­vinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?


When poet and nation­al endow­ment for the Arts Chair­man Dana Gioia gave the 2007 Com­mence­ment Address at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, he used the occa­sion to deliv­er an impas­sioned argu­ment for the val­ue of the arts and arts edu­ca­tion.

Art is an irre­place­able way of under­stand­ing and express­ing the world,” said Gioia. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as sto­ries, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, con­soles. It edu­cates our emo­tions.”

For years, arts advo­cates like Gioia have been mak­ing sim­i­lar pleas, stress­ing the intan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of the arts at a time when many Amer­i­cans are pre­oc­cu­pied with a market–driven cul­ture of enter­tain­ment, and schools are con­sumed with meet­ing fed­er­al stan­dards. Art brings joy, these advo­cates say, or it evokes our human­i­ty, or, in the words of my 10–year–old daugh­ter, “It cools kids down after all the oth­er hard stuff they have to think about.”

Bol­ster­ing the case for the arts has become increas­ing­ly nec­es­sary in recent years, as school bud­get cuts and the move toward stan­dard­ized test­ing have pro­found­ly threat­ened the role of the arts in schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment start­ed assess­ing school dis­tricts by their stu­dents’ scores on read­ing and math­e­mat­ics tests.

As a result, accord­ing to a study by the Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion Pol­i­cy, school dis­tricts across the Unit­ed States increased the time they devot­ed to test­ed subjects—reading/language arts and math—while cut­ting spend­ing on non–tested sub­jects such as the visu­al arts and music. The more a school fell behind, by NCLB stan­dards, the more time and mon­ey was devot­ed to those test­ed sub­jects, with less going to the arts. The Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion has report­ed that the cuts fall hard­est on schools with high num­bers of minor­i­ty chil­dren.

And the sit­u­a­tion is like­ly to wors­en as state bud­gets get even tighter. Already, in a round of fed­er­al edu­ca­tion cuts for 2006 and 2007, arts edu­ca­tion nation­al­ly was slashed by $35 mil­lion. In 2008, the New York City Depart­ment of Education’s annu­al study of Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Emerging Tools, Not Magic Pills

Here you are have the twice-a-month newslet­ter with our 10 most pop­u­lar blog posts. Please brainremem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by sub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Our first Brain Training/ Fit­ness Webi­nar Series was a suc­cess with sev­er­al hun­dred par­tic­i­pants and great feed­back. If you could not par­tic­i­pate, you can still review the pre­sen­ta­tion slides by click­ing Here. A key mes­sage from the series: it is excit­ing that our brains remain more flex­i­ble, at all ages, than was once thought pos­si­ble. The impli­ca­tions? Every sin­gle own­er of a brain can ben­e­fit from learn­ing more about how to main­tain the “It” in “Use It or Lose It.” And which tools, if any, can be help­ful. But, remember,there are no mag­ic pills for cog­ni­tive health and per­for­mance.

Mar­ket News

Nation­al Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy Ini­tia­tive: Neu­rotech lead­ers ask for help to sup­port a pend­ing bill on fund­ing for appli­ca­tions of brain research.

Lumos Labs rais­es $3 m in ven­ture cap­i­tal:  This web­site pro­vides a stim­u­lat­ing Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive and Emotional Development Through Play

We some­times neglect to men­tion a very basic yet pow­er­ful method of cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al devel­op­ment, for chil­dren and adults alike: Play.

Dr. David Elkind, author of The Pow­er of Play: Learn­ing That Comes Nat­u­ral­ly, dis­cuss­es the need to build a more “play­ful cul­ture” in this great arti­cle The Power of Play And Learningbrought to you thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.

- Alvaro

——————–

Can We Play?

– By Dr. David Elkind

Play is rapid­ly dis­ap­pear­ing from our homes, our schools, and our neigh­bor­hoods. Over the last two decades alone, chil­dren have lost eight hours of free, unstruc­tured, and spon­ta­neous play a week. More than 30,000 schools in the Unit­ed States have elim­i­nat­ed recess to make more time for aca­d­e­mics. From 1997 to 2003, children’s time spent out­doors fell 50 per­cent, accord­ing to a study by San­dra Hof­ferth at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land. Hof­ferth has also found that the amount of time chil­dren spend in orga­nized sports has dou­bled, and the num­ber of min­utes chil­dren devote each week to pas­sive leisure, not includ­ing watch­ing tele­vi­sion, has increased from 30 min­utes to more than three hours. It is no sur­prise, then, that child­hood obe­si­ty is now con­sid­ered an epi­dem­ic.

But the prob­lem goes well beyond obe­si­ty. Decades of research has shown that play is cru­cial to phys­i­cal, intel­lec­tu­al, and social-emo­tion­al devel­op­ment at all ages. This is espe­cial­ly true of the purest form of play: the unstruc­tured, self-moti­vat­ed, imag­i­na­tive, inde­pen­dent kind, where chil­dren ini­ti­ate their own games and even invent their own rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

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