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Nearly a quarter of seniors said they'd like to participate in more social activities, according to a new report by Statistics Canada. The agency released the first nationally representative study on barriers to social participation by seniors on Wednesday. "Social engagement — involvement in meaningful activities and maintaining close relationships — is a component of successful aging," wrote Heather Gilmour of Statistics Canada's health analysis division. "The results of this analysis highlight the importance of frequent social participation to maintaining quality of life." Overall, an estimated 80 per cent said they were frequent participants in at least one social activity, such as seeing relatives or friends outside the household, attending church or religious activities like a choir or sports at least weekly or attending concerts or volunteering at least monthly. "The greater the number of frequent social activities, the higher the odds of positive self-perceived health, and the lower the odds of loneliness and life dissatisfaction," Gilmour said. "This is consistent with research that has found seniors with a wider range of social ties have better well-being." © CBC 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17384 - Posted: 10.18.2012

by Moheb Costandi NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA—Books and educational toys can make a child smarter, but they also influence how the brain grows, according to new research presented here on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. The findings point to a "sensitive period" early in life during which the developing brain is strongly influenced by environmental factors. Studies comparing identical and nonidentical twins show that genes play an important role in the development of the cerebral cortex, the thin, folded structure that supports higher mental functions. But less is known about how early life experiences influence how the cortex grows. To investigate, neuroscientist Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania and her colleagues recruited 64 children from a low income background and followed them from birth through to late adolescence. They visited the children's homes at 4 and 8 years of age to evaluate their environment, noting factors such as the number of books and educational toys in their houses, and how much warmth and support they received from their parents. More than 10 years after the second home visit, the researchers used MRI to obtain detailed images of the participants' brains. They found that the level of mental stimulation a child receives in the home at age 4 predicted the thickness of two regions of the cortex in late adolescence, such that more stimulation was associated with a thinner cortex. One region, the lateral inferior temporal gyrus, is involved in complex visual skills such as word recognition. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17382 - Posted: 10.18.2012

By Jason G. Goldman Television has a bad side. According to a report from the University of Michigan, the average American child has seen sixteen thousand murders on TV by age 18. Indeed, programs explicitly designed for kids often contain more violence than adult programming, and that violence is often paired with humor. Every single animated feature film produced by US production houses between 1937 and 1999 contained violence, and the amount of violence increased throughout that time period. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that just being awake and in the room with a TV on more than two hours a day – even if the kids aren’t explicitly paying attention to the TV – was a risk factor for being overweight at ages three and four-and-a-half. This may be related to the fact that two thirds of the twenty thousand television commercials the average child sees each year are for food. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their wisdom, recommend that children under age two have zero hours of screen time. (Meanwhile, a bevy of DVDs are marketed to parents of children age zero to 2, promising to “teach your child about language and logic, patterns and sequencing, analyzing details and more.”) Despite the warning, however, many parents of infants age 0 to 2 do allow their children some screen time. In 2007, Frederick J. Zimmerman of the University of Washington (now at UCLA) wondered what the effects of TV watching were on those infants. He collected data from 1008 parents about the infants’ TV habits, as well as the amount of time they spent doing things like reading (with parents), playing, and so on. He also administered, for each child, a survey called the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI). The CDI is a standard tool used by developmental psychologists to assess language development in infants and children. He and his team then looked to see if there were statistical relationships between time spent watching TV (and the other activities) and language abilities, as measured by the CDI. Here’s the catch: they only included infants whose TV watching consisted entirely of infant-directed programming. That is, TV programs especially designed for infants age 0 to 2. If the infants were shown other sorts of TV programs, they were not included in the study. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17373 - Posted: 10.16.2012

By Ferris Jabr In the 1970s biologist Sydney Brenner and his colleagues began preserving tiny hermaphroditic roundworms known as Caenorhabditis elegans in agar and osmium fixative, slicing up their bodies like pepperoni and photographing their cells through a powerful electron microscope. The goal was to create a wiring diagram—a map of all 302 neurons in the C. elegans nervous system as well as all the 7,000 connections, or synapses, between those neurons. In 1986 the scientists published a near complete draft of the diagram. More than 20 years later, Dmitri Chklovskii of Janelia Farm Research Campus and his collaborators published an even more comprehensive version. Today, scientists call such diagrams "connectomes." So far, C. elegans is the only organism that boasts a complete connectome. Researchers are also working on connectomes for the fruit fly nervous system and the mouse brain. In recent years some neuroscientists have proposed creating a connectome for the entire human brain—or at least big chunks of it. Perhaps the most famous proponent of connectomics is Sebastian Seung of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose impressive credentials, TED talk, popular book, charisma and distinctive fashion sense (he is known to wear gold sneakers) have made him a veritable neuroscience rock star. Other neuroscientists think that connectomics at such a large scale—the human brain contains around 86 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses—is not the best use of limited resources. It would take far too long to produce such a massive map, they argue, and, even if we had one, we would not really know how to interpret it. To bolster their argument, some critics point out that the C. elegans connectome has not provided many insights into the worm's behavior. In a debate* with Seung at Columbia University earlier this year, Anthony Movshon of New York University said, "I think it's fair to say…that our understanding of the worm has not been materially enhanced by having that connectome available to us. We don't have a comprehensive model of how the worm's nervous system actually produces the behaviors. What we have is a sort of a bed on which we can build experiments—and many people have built many elegant experiments on that bed. But that connectome by itself has not explained anything." © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 17325 - Posted: 10.03.2012

By Simon J Makin Humans are born to a longer period of total dependence than any other animal we know of, and we also know that mistreatment or neglect during this time often leads to social, emotional, cognitive and mental health problems in later life. It’s not hard to imagine how a lack of proper stimulation in our earliest years – everything from rich sensory experiences and language exposure to love and care – might adversely affect our development, but scientists have only recently started to pull back the curtain on the genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that might explain how these effects arise in the brain. You’ll often hear it said that human beings are “social animals”. What biologists tend to mean by that phrase is behaviour like long-lasting relationships or some kind society, whether that’s the social hierarchy of gorillas or the extreme organisation of bees and ants. But, to an extent, most animals are social. A mother usually bonds with its offspring in any species of bird or mammal you care to mention, and almost all animals indulge in some kind of social behaviour when they mate. But there is another sense in which most animals seem to be fundamentally social. There is an emerging scientific understanding of the way social experience moulds the biochemistry of the brain and it looks like most species don’t just prefer the company of others – they need it to develop properly. Take that staple of genetics research, drosophila – aka the fruit fly. While they are not as social as primates or bees, they are more social than you might think, and there have been studies showing that social isolation can disrupt their mating behaviour or even reduce their lifespan. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 17318 - Posted: 10.02.2012

by Melissa Lee Phillips Giving a whole new meaning to "pregnancy brain," a new study shows that male DNA—likely left over from pregnancy with a male fetus—can persist in a woman's brain throughout her life. Although the biological impact of this foreign DNA is unclear, the study also found that women with more male DNA in their brains were less likely to have suffered from Alzheimer's disease—hinting that the male DNA could help protect the mothers from the disease, the researchers say. During mammalian pregnancy, the mother and fetus exchange DNA and cells. Previous work has shown that fetal cells can linger in the mother's blood and bone for decades, a condition researchers call fetal microchimerism. The lingering of the fetal DNA, research suggests, may be a mixed blessing for a mom: The cells may benefit the mother's health—by promoting tissue repair and improving the immune system—but may also cause adverse effects, such as autoimmune reactions. One question is how leftover fetal cells affect the brain. Researchers have shown that fetal microchimerism occurs in mouse brains, but they had not shown this in humans. So a team led by autoimmunity researcher and rheumatologist J. Lee Nelson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, took samples from autopsied brains of 59 women who died between the ages of 32 and 101. By testing for a gene specific to the Y chromosome, they found evidence of male DNA in the brains of 63% of the women. (The researchers did not have the history of the women's pregnancies.) The male DNA was scattered across multiple brain regions, the team reports online today in PLoS ONE. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17310 - Posted: 09.27.2012

FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — More than half the cases of severe intellectual disability caused by genetic defects are the result of random mutations, not inherited, a European study published Thursday suggests. The findings of the small-scale study give hope to parents of children born with a severe intellectual disabilities who are worried about having another baby with the same condition, said Anita Rauch, a researcher at the Institute of Medical Genetics in Zurich who was one of the study's lead authors. It examined the genetic makeup of 51 children, both of their parents and a control group. The study concluded that in at least 55 percent of cases there was no evidence that parents carried faulty genes responsible for the disability. "The average chances of having another child with the same disability are usually estimated at eight percent, but if we know that it was caused by a random mutation the chances of recurrence drop dramatically," Rauch said. Hans-Hilger Ropers, the director of Berlin's Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, who was not involved in the study, said the basic science appeared sound but noted that it excluded children whose parents were blood relatives and so the results could be biased toward random mutations. Ropers said a larger study that included subjects from parts of the world where marriage between blood relatives is more common could produce different results. © 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17308 - Posted: 09.27.2012

Analysis by Tracy Staedter From the department of "I hope this never happens to me," scientists have used a laser to manipulate the behavior of a worm. First, a research team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute genetically engineered a tiny, transparent worm called Caenorhabditis elegans to have neurons that give off fluorescent light. This allowed the neurons to be tracked during experiments. The scientists also engineered the neurons to be sensitive to light, which made it possible to activate them with pulses of laser light. Next, they built a movable table for the worm to crawl on, keeping it aligned beneath a camera and laser. They used the laser to activate a single neuron at a time. By doing so, they were able to control a worm's behavior and its senses. In tests, which the researchers published in the journal Nature, the laser made the worm turn left or right and move through a loop. The laser also tricked the worm brain into thinking food was nearby. The worm, in turn, wiggled toward what it thought was a meal. The research, which on the surface seems like a bit of a circus, actually is important because it shows scientists which neurons are responsible for what. "If we can understand simple nervous systems to the point of completely controlling them, then it may be a possibility that we can gain a comprehensive understanding of more complex systems," said Sharad Ramanathan, an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and of Applied Physics. "This gives us a framework to think about neural circuits, how to manipulate them, which circuit to manipulate and what activity patterns to produce in them." © 2012 Discovery Communications, LLC

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17299 - Posted: 09.26.2012

by Emily Underwood A human newborn's brain is uniquely impressionable, allowing social interactions and the environment to shape its development. But this malleability may come with a price, a new study finds. A comparison of juvenile chimpanzee and human brains suggests that differences in the development of myelin—the fatty sheath that surrounds nerve fibers—may contribute not only to our unusual adaptability, but also to our vulnerability to psychiatric diseases that start in early adulthood. Research increasingly suggests that psychiatric illnesses like depression and schizophrenia may involve problems with the timing of neural signals, says Douglas Fields, a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the study. The nerve fibers, or axons, that connect neurons are usually protected by myelin, which enhances the neural relay of information throughout the brain. "Myelin speeds transmission of information [by] at least 50 times," Fields says, "so it matters a great deal whether or not an axon becomes myelinated." Humans start out with comparatively few myelinated axons as newborns. We experience a burst of myelin development during infancy that is followed by a long, slow growth of myelin that can last into our thirties, says Chet Sherwood, a neuroscientist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a co-author of the new study. In contrast, other primates, such as macaques, start out with significantly more myelin at birth, but stop producing it by the time they reach sexual maturity. However, Sherwood says, "extraordinarily little data exists" on brain growth and the development of myelin in our closest genetic relatives, chimpanzees. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17295 - Posted: 09.25.2012

Sandrine Ceurstemont, editor, New Scientist TV Chimps may be similar to us in many ways but they can't compete when it comes to brain size. Now for the first time we can see when the differences emerge by tracking the brain development of unborn chimps. As seen in this video, Tomoko Sakai and colleagues from Kyoto University in Japan subjected a pregnant chimp to a 3D ultrasound to gather images of the fetus between 14 and 34 weeks of development. The volume of its growing brain was then compared to that of an unborn human. The team found that brain size increases in both chimps and humans until about 22 weeks, but after then only the growth of human brains continues to accelerate. This suggests that as the brain of modern humans rapidly evolved, differences between the two species emerged before birth as well as afterwards. The researchers now plan to examine how different parts of the brain develop in the womb, particularly the forebrain, which is responsible for decision-making, self-awareness and creativity. If you enjoyed this post, watch the first video MRI of unborn twins or the first MRI movie of a baby's birth. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17293 - Posted: 09.25.2012

by Michael Marshall The human brain may be the most complex object in the universe, but its construction mostly depends on one thing: the shape of neurons. Different kinds of neuron are selective about which other neurons they connect to and where they attach. Specific signalling chemicals are thought to be vital in guiding this process. Henry Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and colleagues built 3D computer models of the rat somatosensory cortex, each containing a random mix of cell types found in rat brains, but no signalling chemicals. Nevertheless, 74 per cent of the connections ended up in the correct place, merely by allowing the cells to develop into their normal shape. The results suggest that much of the brain could be mapped without incorporating signalling chemicals. This is good news for neuroscientists struggling to map the brain's dizzying web of connections. "It would otherwise take decades to map each synapse in the brain," says Markram. The work could also help untangle the causes of conditions like schizophrenia that are thought to be caused by flaws in brain wiring. If Markram's work proves correct, malformed neurons that don't connect up properly could be a factor. Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1202128109 © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17267 - Posted: 09.18.2012

By Ingrid Wickelgren In a room tucked next to the reception desk in a colorful lobby of a Park Avenue office tower, kids slide into the core of a white cylinder and practice something kids typically find quite difficult: staying still. Inside the tunnel, a child lies on her back and looks up at a television screen, watching a cartoon. If her head moves, the screen goes blank, motivating her to remain motionless. This dress rehearsal, performed at The Child Mind Institute, prepares children emotionally and physically to enter a real magnet for a scan of their brain. The scan is not part of the child’s treatment; it is his or her contribution to science. What scientists learn from hundreds to thousands of brain scans from children who are ill, as well as those who are not, is likely to be of enormous benefit to children in the future. The Child Mind Institute is a one-of-a-kind facility dedicated to the mental health of children. Its clinicians offer state-of-the-art treatments for children with psychiatric disorders. (For more on its clinical services see my previous post, “Minding Our Children’s Minds.”) In addition to spotting and treating mental illness, The Child Mind Institute is dedicated to improving both through science. Its researchers are helping build a repository of brain scans to better understand both ordinary brain development and how mental illness might warp that process. Tracking the developmental trajectory of mental illness is a critical, overlooked enterprise. Almost three quarters of psychiatric disorders start before age 24 and psychological problems in childhood often portend bona fide, or more severe, diagnoses in adults. If scientists can pinpoint changes that forecast a mental disorder, they might be able to diagnose an incipient disease, when it might be preventable, and possibly target the troublesome circuits through therapy. Certain brain signatures might also provide information about disease risk and prognosis, and about what types of treatments might work best for an individual. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 17253 - Posted: 09.13.2012

By JUDITH SHULEVITZ MOTHERHOOD begins as a tempestuously physical experience but quickly becomes a political one. Once a woman’s pregnancy goes public, the storm moves outside. Don’t pile on the pounds! Your child will be obese. Don’t eat too little, or your baby will be born too small. For heaven’s sake, don’t drink alcohol. Oh, please: you can sip some wine now and again. And no matter how many contradictory things the experts say, don’t panic. Stress hormones wreak havoc on a baby’s budding nervous system. All this advice rains down on expectant mothers for the obvious reason that mothers carry babies and create the environments in which they grow. What if it turned out, though, that expectant fathers molded babies, too, and not just by way of genes? Biology is making it clearer by the day that a man’s health and well-being have a measurable impact on his future children’s health and happiness. This is not because a strong, resilient man has a greater likelihood of being a fabulous dad — or not only for that reason — or because he’s probably got good genes. Whether a man’s genes are good or bad (and whatever “good” and “bad” mean in this context), his children’s bodies and minds will reflect lifestyle choices he has made over the years, even if he made those choices long before he ever imagined himself strapping on a Baby Bjorn. Doctors have been telling men for years that smoking, drinking and recreational drugs can lower the quality of their sperm. What doctors should probably add is that the health of unborn children can be affected by what and how much men eat; the toxins they absorb; the traumas they endure; their poverty or powerlessness; and their age at the time of conception. In other words, what a man needs to know is that his life experience leaves biological traces on his children. Even more astonishingly, those children may pass those traces along to their children. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17240 - Posted: 09.10.2012

by Sara Reardon The carnival trick of guessing a person's age has just gained a lot more rigour. A new brain imaging technique can predict a child's age to within a year. The technique could be useful for determining whether a child is developing normally, or confirm that a young person is the age they say they are. There is no doubt that children of the same age often have vast differences in their maturity and mental ability, says Timothy Brown of the University of California in San Diego. But what hasn't been clear is how much of that difference is psychological and how much is biological. To simplify the question, Brown and his colleagues looked at brain structure rather than brain activity. Working with 10 hospitals in different parts of the US, they recruited 885 children and young adults between the ages of 3 and 20. They ensured that the participants represented many different races, socioeconomic statuses and education levels. The group performed structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on the young peoples' brains. The images showed features such as the size of each brain region, the level of connectivity between neurons, and how much white matter was insulating the neurons. By putting all these features together in an algorithm, the researchers formed a picture of what the average brain looks like at each year of childhood. Different areas and features of the brain varied between individuals, but the algorithm correctly predicted a child's age to within a year in 92 per cent of cases. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 17181 - Posted: 08.18.2012

By Scicurious Our brains are made of millions of neurons. Tons. A lot. We scientists spend a lot of time studying those neurons, how they function individually, and how they respond to outside stimulation. But neurons cannot function alone. What sets a neuron apart is its ability to carry electric signals and to transfer chemical signals to other neurons. The function of neurons is not in the neurons themselves, it is in the connection between them. And this incredibly complicated network, composed of billions of connections, is called the connectome. If we knew the connectome of the human, we’d know a lot more about the brain than we do now. We are learning it, little by little, but with a series of connections that are so incredibly vast, it’s just too much right now to examine every single possible connection. Right now the only way to ensure getting every single connection in painstaking detail is to use electron microscopy to view synapses, the connections between neurons. Concentrations of the little organelles which signify a synapse (such as vesicles full of neurotransmitter), can tell you where each connection is placed. But the electron microscope can only look at a very small section at a time, making the mapping of a connectome an incredibly arduous task. C. elegans, to be exact. The nematode is a darling of basic research, and for a very good reason. C. elegans is incredibly simple, having exactly 302 neurons in the entire body. Well, 302, or 383. There are two kinds of C. elegans, hermaphrodite and male (there are no females). The males mate with the hermaphrodites. But this means that the male C. elegans is slightly different from the hermaphrodite C. elegans. While the hermaphrodite has 302 neurons, the male has 383. And most of these appear to be devoted to a complex series of behaviors characteristic of mating. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 17138 - Posted: 08.07.2012

by Michael Marshall The relatively sophisticated brain of a songbird has been transplanted into the body of a distantly related, less intelligent species. The study could help us understand how brains develop, perhaps opening the way to treating some brain conditions. Since 2009, Chun-Chun Chen of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has performed over 100 brain transplants in birds. In her latest study she transferred the cells destined to become the forebrain of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) into Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) embryos, after removing the equivalent quail cells. After the transplants, Chen incubated the eggs for up to 16 days, before opening them to find that the transplanted cells had integrated into their hosts, forming the normal neural pathways. None of the chimeric embryos hatched, however, perhaps because their hybrid brains could not trigger breathing. Chen says she will try to crack the hatching problem by transplanting just half a zebra finch forebrain, leaving half the quail forebrain still in place. Researchers have been attempting such transplants for decades. In 1957, Petar Martinovitch of Yale University transplanted the heads of one set of chicken embryos to another (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 43, p 354). Few survived. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17134 - Posted: 08.07.2012

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA KITGUM, Uganda — Augustine Languna's eyes welled up and then his voice failed as he recalled the drowning death of his 16-year-old daughter. The women near him looked away, respectfully avoiding the kind of raw emotion that the head of the family rarely displayed. "What is traumatizing us," he said after regaining his composure, "is that the well where she died is where we still go for drinking water." Joyce Labol was found dead about three years ago. As she bent low to fetch water from a pond a half mile from Languna's compound of thatched huts, an uncontrollable spasm overcame her. The teen was one of more than 300 young Ugandans who have died as a result of the mysterious illness that is afflicting more and more children across northern Uganda and in pockets of South Sudan. The disease is called nodding syndrome, or nodding head disease, because those who have it nod their heads and sometimes go into epileptic-like fits. The disease stunts children's growth and destroys their cognition, rendering them unable to perform small tasks. Some victims don't recognize their own parents. Ugandan officials say some 3,000 children in the East African country suffer from the affliction. Some caregivers even tie nodding syndrome children up to trees so that they don't have to monitor them every minute of the day. Beginning Monday, Uganda hosts a four-day international conference on nodding syndrome that health officials believe will lead to a clearer understanding of the mysterious disease. © 2012 NBCNews.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 17102 - Posted: 07.30.2012

By Laura Sanders A baby’s brain is a thirsty sponge, slurping up words, figuring out faces and learning which foods are good and bad to eat. Information about the world flooding into a young brain begins to carve out traces, like rushing water over soft limestone. As the outside world sculpts the growing brain, important connections between nerve cells become strong rivers, while smaller unused tributaries quietly disappear. In time, these brain connections crystallize, forming indelible patterns etched into marble. Impressionable brain systems that allowed a child to easily learn a language, for instance, go away, abandoned for the speed and strength that come with rigidity. In a fully set brain, signals fly around effortlessly, making common­place tasks short work. A master of efficiency, the adult brain loses the exuberance of childhood. But the adult brain need not remain in this petrified state. In a feat of neural alchemy, the brain can morph from marble back to limestone. The potential for this metamorphosis has galvanized scientists, who now talk about a mind with the power to remake itself. In the last few years, researchers have found ways to soften the stone, recapturing some of the lost magic of a young brain. “There’s been a very, very significant change,” says Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “I don’t think the import of that basic fact has fully expressed itself.” © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17101 - Posted: 07.28.2012

By Jason G. Goldman The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion; and to the very end of life, our location of all things in one space is due to the fact that the original extents or bignesses of all the sensations which came to our notice at once, coalesced together into one and the same space. There is no other reason than this why “the hand I touch and see coincides spatially with the hand I immediately feel.” This passage, so often quoted in introductory psychology textbooks, was written by William James in his 1890 volume Principles of Psychology, and it encapsulates the dominant viewpoint of developmental psychology for most of the history of the field. James wasn’t the first one to articulate the idea that babies are born knowing essentially nothing of the world, of course. In 1689, John Locke wrote, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper [tabula rasa] void of all characters, without any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this, I answer, in one word, from experience. John Locke (1632-1704) The argument proposed by philosophers like Locke and theorists like James is that babies are born as “blank slates,” ready to be inscribed upon – by experience, by learning, by culture. Infants, they argue, are equipped with basic sensory mechanisms, like vision and touch, and a powerful statistical brain that is highly skilled at detecting and learning associations between those sensory inputs. Throughout development, or so the argument goes, children learn more and more associations until their minds become more like adult minds. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17099 - Posted: 07.28.2012

By Ruth Williams If a child you know refuses to share his toys, chances are he knows he is doing wrong but cannot help it. New research published in March in Neuron reveals that underdevelopment of an impulse control center in the brain is, at least in part, the reason children who fully understand the concept of fairness fail to act accordingly. As babies, we are inherently selfish, but as we grow, we become better at social strategy—that is, satisfying our own needs while behaving in a manner acceptable to others. Nikolaus Steinbeis of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, wondered how this skill develops. Steinbeis and his team examined kids aged six to 14 performing two similar decision-making tasks that involved sharing poker chips with an anonymous recipient (the chips were redeemable for prizes). In task one, the size of a child's offering carried no consequences, but in the second task, the anonymous youngster could reject the offer, if he or she considered it unfair, and both children would get nothing. Task two thus required social strategy; task one did not. In task one, older and younger children behaved similarly. But in task two, younger children both made worse offers and were more willing to accept bad offers even though they understood that these offers were unfair. Imaging the kids' brains while they performed the tasks revealed less activity in the younger kids' impulse-control regions in their prefrontal cortex, the seat of decision making and self-control in the brain. In addition, independent of age, less activity in this region paralleled less social strategy. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17014 - Posted: 07.09.2012