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infant stimulation: intelligence

Sergio Navega snavega at ibm.net
Mon Feb 22 08:33:00 EST 1999

F. Frank LeFever wrote in message <7anqfh$bvv at dfw-ixnews6.ix.netcom.com>...
>Long ago (e.g. 40 years ago?) the concept of "critical periods"
>developed out of experiments in which animals (cats, usually?) were
>deprived of normal pattern vision (translucent goggles? I forget), and
>normal pattern vision never developed IF the period of deprivation was
>at certain (early) age.  Later work suggested that as little as (if I
>recall correctly) one hour per day would suffice for normal
>On the OTHER hand, there have been studies with rats in raised in
>rather sparsely furnished cages compared with those raised in
>"enriched" environments--opportunities for much climbing, exploration,
>objects to manipulate, etc.  I believe these studies showed differences
>at behavioral, neuroanatomical (histological) and neurochemical levels,
>showing an advantage for enriched rearing.
>Similar findings have been reported, I believe, for recovery after
>brain injury.
>It may be true that there is an engineering "safety factor" such that
>grossly normal development can occur even under less than optimal
>conditions, but I believe differences "within the normal range" can be
>found after different kinds of early experience--behaviorally,
>certainly, although neuroanatomic/neurochemical studies on humans may
>not be able to demonstrate differences at our present level of
>Caveat: there is at least anecdotal evidence that TOO MUCH or perhaps
>TOO MUCH AND WRONGLY FOCUSED early childhood stiumulation can have
>lifeloong detrimental effects.
>F. Frank LeFever, Ph.D.
>New York Neuropsychology Group

I guess you touched on two important points. It seems that we have
enough evidence today to be sure that enriched environments can
contribute significantly to brain development of children.

You also touched on the problem of too much or wrongly focused
stimulation and that's what I want to comment.

Unfortunately, I don't have any serious study handy to support
what I believe is the "wrong focus". Since Jean Piaget, we've
learned a lot about baby development and, although some Piagetian
concepts require modernization, it is clear that the sensorimotor
phase of development is *very important* and anything that
disturb this phase could be potentially dangerous.

This is the center of my hypothesis. Some time ago, I heard
about babies being exposed prematurely to "high-level" information
(learning language, arithmetic and even geography with 2 years).
The parents and psychologists claimed that the child had all
aspects of being a "genius". Really?

I have serious doubts about that. If they replaced sensorimotor
interactions with the world by high-level, abstract information,
they probably took out from that baby the best chance he/she could
have of building the ground in which all *future* knowledge
would stand. The damage of this approach, if this hypothesis
is correct, will be felt only when the child grows to adult
(in other words, too late).

Sergio Navega.

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