Tryptophan, insulin, and melatonin

toddler lying on pink fleece pad

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A few times now, I have gotten Fleur to sleep right after eating lunch. I know the daycare times it this way. It seemed arbitrary until I tried it and found it easy to get her to sleep.

Then I remembered something I read a while ago: Meats contain tryptophan. Fruits and sweets contain carbohydrates. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we eat feel drowsy because of eating both. The carbohydrates prompts the release of insulin to use the branched-chain amino acids in rebuilding muscle, but the tryptophan is left behind. The tryptophan is metabolized into serotonin which is metabolized into melatonin. The last is what gives us that drowsy feel.

So, I now suspect the trick to getting the little one to take that nap is to get her full and use the excess melatonin as another nudge to “Go the #$@! to sleep!” That may also mean supper needs to be right before the bath when the neurotransmitter is maxed out.

Facebook Memories effect on recognition

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I usually show Fleur videos I make of her doing something and gauge her enjoyment. Her face lights up seeing herself do something she just minutes prior. (Well, seconds because she now comes over to check the screen after seeing me record it.)

A Facebook memory popped up with her saying “dada” around the first time. I showed her that video and got a puzzled expression. She likely did not recognize herself. nor remembered the event. But, she quickly changed the expression to amusement, so I wonder what she was thinking about it.

Facebook Memories is an useful tool to trigger fond memories about past events. (Though, I vaguebooked too much.) Seeing old milestones can change a frustrating day into a good one.

Achieving self-service

As a technologist, we aim for self-service solutions. The tool should allow people accomplish their work without the direct intervention of support staff.

As a parent, we aim for our children to do the same. The time sink is doing everything for them, so the more they take care of themselves the more time we get back. With the toddler, I see the gross understanding of processes and some mastery.

She can feed herself with her hands and is getting better at using a spoon. In putting on clothes, arms are placed in a position to make it easier to pull on or off a shirt or coat. Or switching a toy to another hand. Or climbing into the high chair for dinner.

Baby steps to getting dressed herself. Though, this morning she did pick the outfit: her Star Trek Lieutenant Commander (TNG) onesie. So, you know I am proud.

Book: Brain Rules for Baby

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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.

Some quotes:

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Everything is a balancing act. During pregnancy especially weight, nutrition, stress, exercise.
  3. 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.
  4. Exercise can reduce pushing time and reduce the time baby is without oxygen and reduce stunted brain development.
  5. Kinds of intelligence:
    1. Record information, aka crystallized intelligence.
    2. Improvisation
    3. Desire to explore
    4. Self-control
    5. Creativity
    6. Verbal communication
    7. Decoding nonverbal communication
  6. Ingredients for happy kids:
    1. a demanding but warm parenting style ( responsiveness & demandingness)
    2. comfort with your own emotions
    3. tracking your child’s emotions (don’t ignore & don’t helicopter)
    4. verbalizing emotions (describe emotions)
    5. running toward emotions (emotions are reflexive; behavior is a choice; be consistent with rules on behavior; turn intense feelings into teachable moments)
    6. two tons of empathy
  7. 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.

 

 

Study: The rough sound of salience enhances aversion through neural synchronisation

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, LHKleinschmidt, A, et al. “The rough sound of salience enhances aversion through neural synchronisation” Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 3671 (2019)

Study: Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response

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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

Fostering kindness

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.

two gray monkey on black chair

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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?