Tagged: Child Development
Reopening Our Critical Period as Adults
Ever wonder why children can learn certain things, such as languages, faster than adults? There is a time in every human’s life called the critical period, and it takes place during the most intense period of development, childhood. During this time a child’s brain has high neuroplasticity, almost like a sponge. Many new pathways are formed as the child experiences new things. It has always been believed that when our critical period ends it never comes back but recent study has been done with the drug Valproate that increased neural plasticity in adults and may have reopened this critical period.
Valproate is a drug most commonly used for bipolar disorder and epilepsy. It is also known to inhibit an enzyme called histone- deacetylase, or HDAC. HDAC is an enzyme in the brain that slows down neural plasticity. Inhibition of this enzyme by Valproate allows the reopening of pathways in the brain, increasing neuroplasticity, thus reopening the critical period.
Put Your Hands Up for Intelligence
Ever wonder why people still “talk with their hands” when they’re on the telephone? We often use hand gestures while speaking even at times when the listener cannot see them. Gestures are processed in the same areas of the brain as speech (think sign language): the left inferior frontal gyrus (Broca’s) and the posterior middle temporal gyrus (Wenicke’s area). Hand movements help us to communicate more efficiently and emphasize certain points of the message we are trying to convey to our conversational partners. They’re an indication of our thought process throughout the discussion. Evolutionary insight proposes that the language brain regions, which originally supported the pairing of body language and meaning, have been adapted in humans for spoken language; however, we still don’t know precisely the reason why people gesture, and more interestingly, why some people use gestures more often than others. More
The Brain Game: Frolick in the cerebellum, outwit nanobots in the brainstem, puzzle together memories in the hippocampus…
You are a secret agent infiltrating a top-secret neuroscience research facility. Your mission: to track down and root out the Nanobots that have invaded the brains of the scientists there. If you fail, the Nanobots and the secret entity that spawned them will take over the Earth, reprogramming the human brain into docile submission.
This game is created by Morphonix.
This may not interest everybody, but the video-game-nerd/preschool-teacher in me was embarrassingly excited to stumble upon this site. The research staff at Morphonix really focus on the idea that they want to design their game to promote learning ABOUT the mind. The three games available are Every Body Has a Brain for ages 4-6, Journey Into the Brain, an award winning game for children ages 7-11, and a real-time 3D game for 11-14 year-olds called Neuromatrix. The graphics may make this game look a little lame to us, but to a kid, adventure is at their fingertips.
If anyone has a little sibling or younger cousin, it is glaringly obvious that kids love to ask questions, and they really do love knowledge and the ability to be a know-it-all at the dinner table. It seems that Morphonix has found a great way to make both the scientific facts of neuroscience and the abstract concepts of the brain extremely accessible, concrete, and inherently fun. Even as a college student, I’d be interested in running through the puzzles, testing what I know, and pretending it counts as studying for my brain anatomy exam.
Each of the games introduces the structure and function of the brain. They maintain real vocabulary, challenging children with difficult words like “hippocampus” while giving them child-oriented strategies to learn what it looks like, where it is, and what it does. But more importantly, it gives them the desire to want to remember the hippocampus - because they learn that they have one! As the Morphonix team states on their site, “We hope that Neuromatrix, Journey into the Brain, and Every Body Has a Brain awaken children and teens to the miracle and wonder of their own growing brains, inspire them to take good care of their brains, and nourish their curiosity about the realm of biology as a whole.”
I think developing games that teach children about Neuroscience is an incredible idea. It is an endlessly intriguing field full of things that affect us everyday but seem intangible to most. Children often ask questions about those things, and Morphonix knows how to give the answer in a way that they will understand and that will stick with them. Honestly, I think one of the 12 year olds would probably fair pretty well in PS 101.
Teaching children about the brain and introducing them to the mysterious field of neuroscience gives something powerful to kids wanting to learn, teachers looking to intrigue and inspire, and even scientists seeking new ways to get the information out there (or start training lab assistants early). An excerpt from the Reviews page of the Morphonix site gives us a pretty good idea of just how inspiring this game can be:
"When Aidan finished playing, Littman sought additional feedback from her pint-sized adviser.
"Where is your heart?" she asked. Aidan pointed to his chest.
"Does your heart think?" He shook his head.
"What keeps the heart beating?"
"The brain stem!" he replied, nearly leaping off the couch with a level of excitement about neuroscience rarely seen in a 5-year-old.