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Curiosity

April 28, 2016  |  Posted by Brain Rules | No Comments
Most developmental psychologists believe that a child’s need to know is a drive as pure as a diamond and as distracting as chocolate. Even though there is no agreed-upon definition of curiosity in cognitive neuroscience, I couldn’t agree more. I firmly believe that if children are allowed to remain curious, they will continue to deploy their natural tendencies to discover and explore until they are 101. This is something my mother seemed to know instinctively.

For little ones, discovery brings joy. Like an addictive drug, exploration creates the need for more discovery so that more joy can be experienced. It is a straight-up reward system that, if allowed to flourish, will continue into the school years. As children get older, they find that learning brings them not only joy but also mastery. Expertise in specific subjects breeds the confidence to take intellectual risks. If these kids don’t end up in the emergency room, they may end up with a Nobel Prize.

I believe it is possible to break this cycle, anesthetizing both the process and the child. By first grade, for example, children learn that education means an A. They begin to understand that they can acquire knowledge not because it is interesting, but because it can get them something. Fascination can become secondary to “What do I need to know to get the grade?” But I also believe the curiosity instinct is so powerful that some people overcome society’s message to go to sleep intellectually, and they flourish anyway.

Watch the Exploration video


Curiosity

April 28, 2016  |  Posted by Brain Rules | No Comments
Most developmental psychologists believe that a child’s need to know is a drive as pure as a diamond and as distracting as chocolate. Even though there is no agreed-upon definition of curiosity in cognitive neuroscience, I couldn’t agree more. I firmly believe that if children are allowed to remain curious, they will continue to deploy their natural tendencies to discover and explore until they are 101. This is something my mother seemed to know instinctively.

For little ones, discovery brings joy. Like an addictive drug, exploration creates the need for more discovery so that more joy can be experienced. It is a straight-up reward system that, if allowed to flourish, will continue into the school years. As children get older, they find that learning brings them not only joy but also mastery. Expertise in specific subjects breeds the confidence to take intellectual risks. If these kids don’t end up in the emergency room, they may end up with a Nobel Prize.

I believe it is possible to break this cycle, anesthetizing both the process and the child. By first grade, for example, children learn that education means an A. They begin to understand that they can acquire knowledge not because it is interesting, but because it can get them something. Fascination can become secondary to “What do I need to know to get the grade?” But I also believe the curiosity instinct is so powerful that some people overcome society’s message to go to sleep intellectually, and they flourish anyway.

Watch the Exploration video


“You want to get your kid into Harvard?”

April 11, 2016  |  Posted by Brain Rules | No Comments


Listen to the audio excerpt from the Brain Rules for Baby Relationship chapter.

For most first-time moms and dads, the first shock is the overwhelmingly relentless nature of this new social contract. The baby takes. The parent gives. End of story. What startles many couples is the excruciating toll it can take on their quality of life—especially their marriages. The baby cries, the baby sleeps, the baby vomits, gets held, needs changing, must be fed, all before 4:00 a.m. Then you have to go to work. Or your spouse does. This is repeated day after day after ad nauseam day. Parents want just one square inch of silence, one small second to themselves, and they routinely get neither. You can’t even go to the bathroom when you want. You’re sleep deprived, you’ve lost friends, your household chores just tripled, your sex life is nonexistent, and you barely have the energy to ask about each other’s day.

 Is it any surprise that a couple’s relationship suffers? It’s rarely talked about, but it’s a fact: Couples’ hostile interactions sharply increase in baby’s first year.

When I lecture on the science of young brains, the dads (it’s almost always the dads) demand to know how to get their kids into Harvard. The question invariably angers me. I bellow, “You want to get your kid into Harvard? You really want to know what the data say? I’ll tell you what the data say! Go home and love your wife!” This chapter is about that retort: why marital hostility happens, how it alters a baby’s developing brain, and how you can counteract the hostility and minimize its effects.

Get the updated and expanded Brain Rules for Baby audiobook on Libro.fm.

“You want to get your kid into Harvard?”

April 11, 2016  |  Posted by Brain Rules | No Comments


Listen to the audio excerpt from the Brain Rules for Baby Relationship chapter.

For most first-time moms and dads, the first shock is the overwhelmingly relentless nature of this new social contract. The baby takes. The parent gives. End of story. What startles many couples is the excruciating toll it can take on their quality of life—especially their marriages. The baby cries, the baby sleeps, the baby vomits, gets held, needs changing, must be fed, all before 4:00 a.m. Then you have to go to work. Or your spouse does. This is repeated day after day after ad nauseam day. Parents want just one square inch of silence, one small second to themselves, and they routinely get neither. You can’t even go to the bathroom when you want. You’re sleep deprived, you’ve lost friends, your household chores just tripled, your sex life is nonexistent, and you barely have the energy to ask about each other’s day.

 Is it any surprise that a couple’s relationship suffers? It’s rarely talked about, but it’s a fact: Couples’ hostile interactions sharply increase in baby’s first year.

When I lecture on the science of young brains, the dads (it’s almost always the dads) demand to know how to get their kids into Harvard. The question invariably angers me. I bellow, “You want to get your kid into Harvard? You really want to know what the data say? I’ll tell you what the data say! Go home and love your wife!” This chapter is about that retort: why marital hostility happens, how it alters a baby’s developing brain, and how you can counteract the hostility and minimize its effects.

Get the updated and expanded Brain Rules for Baby audiobook on Libro.fm.

What have researchers learned since Brain Rules was published?

February 24, 2016  |  Posted by Brain Rules | No Comments

The field of brain science continues its explosive, propulsive revolution since Brain Rules was published. There are probably too many results to give a thorough account here, but I can certainly talk about some of the highlights.

One of the first is that a series of well-funded brain initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic. Groups of brain scientists are being recruited to be cartographers--examining the functional circuitry of the entire brain--at one of the smallest scales imaginable. The American version is called the BRAIN initiative, short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. It's slated to cost several billion dollars and last 10 years. The European version is called the Human Brain Project. It's a really big effort to use supercomputers to reconstruct the micro-circuitry of the entire human brain

The hope is that such functional mapping expeditions will allow scientists to study at an incredible detail--and get new insights to cure diseases ranging from epilepsy and Parkinson's Disease to brain injuries such as Post Traumatic Stress and stroke.

Another series of leaps involve making brain-machine interfaces. These include harnessing the brain's electrical energy to drive physical devices. This is useful if you are interested in making brain-responsive prosthetics. Given the number of combat injuries the U.S. military has sustained since Brain Rules was written, this is a really exciting field. Progress in deep-brain stimulation technologies--this is where you insert electrical devices into the brain to solve problems ranging from depression to obsessive compulsive disorder, have made great strides.