I loved the Brain Rules book. The original discussed why the brain works the way it does (including the studies) and gave specific activities one can do to boost the efficacy. An example: the brain is a major consumer of oxygen, so scientists have found that intense exercise improves function by getting more oxygenated blood to the brain.
I need to re-read it as it has been a decade. I recently got the baby one.
Having a first child is like swallowing an intoxicating drink made of equal parts joy and terror, chased with a bucketful of transitions nobody ever tells you about.
This is 1,000% true.
As a scientist, I was very aware that watching a baby’s brain develop feels as if you have a front row seat to a biological Big Bang. The brain starts out as a single cell in the womb, quiet as a secret. Within a few weeks, it is pumping out nerve cells at an astonishing rate of 8,000 per second. Within a few months, it is on it’s way to becoming the world’s finest thinking machine.
Some notes I took.
- Perception begins at weeks for most senses. And memory persists after birth, but stimulation too early is harmful and later not going to make a genius.
- Everything is a balancing act. During pregnancy especially weight, nutrition, stress, exercise.
- Chronic or acute stress passes those hormones through the placenta and children seeing it stunt brain growth observing it. Husbands need to keep their wife not stressed. Happy is the ideal, but at least not stressed. This can be 8 IQ points.
- Exercise can reduce pushing time and reduce the time baby is without oxygen and reduce stunted brain development.
- Kinds of intelligence:
- Record information, aka crystallized intelligence.
- Desire to explore
- Verbal communication
- Decoding nonverbal communication
- Ingredients for happy kids:
- a demanding but warm parenting style ( responsiveness & demandingness)
- comfort with your own emotions
- tracking your child’s emotions (don’t ignore & don’t helicopter)
- verbalizing emotions (describe emotions)
- running toward emotions (emotions are reflexive; behavior is a choice; be consistent with rules on behavior; turn intense feelings into teachable moments)
- two tons of empathy
- Behavior modification basic principles.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The thing I liked the most about the original was he named a rule and went on about why it is important and the research justifying it. This book lacked that simplistic and novel model, which put me off.
Why is is that children’s screams affect us so much? Crying is one thing. But, a scream gets adrenaline revved up and someone is going to die. These researchers looked at why.
They define how the physical properties of a scream differ from other similar sounds. It fits in 30–150 Hz, is loud, and has fast repetitive flicker like effects. These combine to capture attention due to the unpleasantness.
They used iEEG electrodes to measure brain activity. They looked at a small number of patients.
One of the areas that lit up is used in processing language and emotional context. While the superior temporal gyrus is in a part of the brain associated with sound, when analyzing facial expressions, we also leverage this area to understand emotions.
Arnal, LH, Kleinschmidt, A, et al. “The rough sound of salience enhances aversion through neural synchronisation” Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 3671 (2019)
This caught my eye because I’ve read about the growth mindset often over the past several years. And, I feel that how I responded to stress in my professional life is responsible for my achievements.
Study 1: I found the use of the invention of a Work Performance Scale adapted from a Role-Based Performance Scale interesting. I’d like to compare the two. But, offhand, it is self-reporting, which I dislike for the tendency of the taker to say what they think is wanted not what they think. (And even if they put they think, our view of ourselves is skewed from inner dialogue biases and justifications.) They decided the data shows that stress mindset is a distinct variable among others already determined for stress. They probably overly generalize to health and well-being when their measure was just on work performance.
This additional variable thing seems to trigger warning bells about confirmation bias in my head. It strongly confirms my existing worldview in that I’ve seen people who take on challenges head-on and others who squander the opportunity.
I just skimmed the rest from here. Study 2 appears to try to determine if it works similar to growth-fixed mindsets. Study 3 appears to look at positive and negative feedback with stress mindsets.
Crum, AJ and Salovey, P and Achor, S. “Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2013, Vol. 104, No. 4, 716 –733. DOI: 10.1037/a0031201
Turns out, kindness is complicated. We’re born with the wiring for both kindness and cruelty, so altruism is not inevitable. It’s a skill and a habit that we have the power — and responsibility — to foster, one good deed at a time.
I love the concept of mirror neurons. When watching someone else do something, the parts of our brain for doing that activity light up as though we are doing it. One of the reasons why I enjoy watching sports that I have played, especially the players of positions, is because I feel it when they make a play. They also have a dark side, in that when others experience pain, our brain experiences it as well.
My first experience with seeing early empathetic distress was in helping my aunt babysit twins. When one would cry, the other hearing the cry would also start to cry. Nothing was wrong. At the time, we chalked it up to attention seeking, but I bet really it was empathetic distress. Hearing the the cry bad made the other feel bad and crying was the way to express it.
Kindness is not just about feeling bad about another’s distress, but doing something to resolve it. Fleur likes to take my glasses. Unfortunately, I have turned it into a kind of game. Lately, I have had to shift my reaction to expressing sadness about it. She is much faster about giving them back when I do. Wonder if that would work for the throwing food thing?
The hairy baby sleeping
A 2018 Pediatrics study found sleeping through the night overrated. Though, to be honest, I have skepticism about the potential for its validity due to:
- it was based on self-reporting by the mothers
- it only measured development through age 3.
RESULTS: Using a definition of either 6 or 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, we found that 27.9% to 57.0% of 6- and 12-month-old infants did not sleep through the night. Linear regressions revealed no significant associations between sleeping through the night and concurrent or later mental development, psychomotor development, or maternal mood (P > .05). However, sleeping through the night was associated with a much lower rate of breastfeeding (P < .0001).
— Pediatrics. 2018 Dec;142(6). pii: e20174330. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-4330. Epub 2018 Nov 12.
Babies point at objects because they really want to touch them:
The first test revealed that we don’t necessarily angle a pointing finger in a way that will direct another observer’s attention towards the object we are pointing at. Rather, a virtual line runs from our eye through our fingertip and towards the object, as if we were reaching to touch the object.
The second test looked at the way we rotate our wrists when pointing at objects – for instance, how we point at a magnet attached to the right-facing side of a box that is placed directly in front of us. Even infants, if using their right hand to point at the magnet, will often rotate their wrist almost 180 degrees so that the pad of their pointing finger is directed towards the magnet, as if reaching to touch it.
The third tested how people interpret a pointing gesture being performed by someone else. It showed that 18-month-olds and 3-year-olds – but not nine-year-olds and adults – understand a pointing gesture to be an attempt by someone to touch an object, not an attempt to use their finger as an ‘arrow’ to direct attention in a certain direction.
Saw a testing of a hypothesis. Fleur had a puff in her hand. She offered it to the cat who just looked at it. She paused and then tossed the puff on the floor exactly the same way I earlier tossed some treats for the cat.
This choice made me realize I don’t have the cat eat out of my hand. The puff looks enough like a treat that I agreed with her choice to try the method to see if the cat would go for it.
The test subject still just looked at it. Fleur picked up the puff and tossed it again getting the bounce that I normally get when I do it. Still no reaction from the cat.
Fleur tosses new foods from the high chair to see if the cat will eat it. She also will give the cat a share of foods, though sometimes she doesn’t give the cat any at all. And the cat expects food now. While dog sitting, it only took a day to realize the bounty of a high chair for both baby and elderly dog.