brain development and stimulation

Bill Skaggs skaggs at bns.pitt.edu
Sun Apr 27 19:24:59 EST 1997


ljmiller at iquest.net (Laura J Miller) writes:
> 
> So, what is the feeling in the neuroscience community?  Did anyone
> else see this article?  Is an "adequate" level of stimulation
> all that is necessary for maximal brain development during the
> early years?  I have trouble believing that brain development
> has such limited potential.  I think they used extremes such as
> references to trying to develop an Einstein to make the concept
> of stimulation seem excessive, instead of helping parents learn
> how to best stimulate (though, still, their point was that nothing
> extra is really necessary if they are not in a vacuum).
> 
> Some more of what the article said:
> "Does any of this [back and white toys, Mozart CDs etc] really make a
> difference?  Can you stimulate your child into becoming another Einstein? 
> Not likely.  All of this obsessive parenting is based on the notion that a
> baby properly stimulated will develop faster, learn languages or music
> better and all in all be a smarter kid."

We should be careful not to assume that the thickness of the neocortex
is the only thing that matters.  The thickness gives a measure of the
number of synapses, which is probably important, but during
development a lot of information is also being stored in those
synapses, and that's something we don't yet have any way of
measuring. 

The most reasonable thing, in my opinion, is to pay attention to what
Mother Nature tells us about this.  Most likely, evolution has
designed children to seek a level of stimulation that is healthy for
them.  Now, children obviously have a tremendous hunger for
stimulation of many kinds, and this is probably a sign that
stimulation is good for them.  On the other hand, very few of them
have a hunger for abstract mathematics or Mozart CDs.  It is probably
reasonable to assume, as most parents would, that if a child ignores
something, it won't have much of an effect.

	-- Bill



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