Being a Musician Is Good for the Brain

Highlights from an Inc article on the benefits of music on the brain caught my attention:

  1. Musical training reorganizes neuron structures in the brain, specifically the corpus callosum which integrates the two sides plus areas involving verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy.
  2. It improves long-term memory, in part because it teaches the hippocampus how to store memories and recall them on demand.
  3. It improves executive function, things like processing and retaining information, controlling behavior, making decisions, and problem solving
  4. Musicians tend to be more mentally alert with faster reaction times.
  5. They tend to have better statistical use of multisensory information, so they are better able to integrate inputs from the various senses.
  6. The earlier a musician starts, the more drastic the changes.
  7. Music reduces stress and improves happiness.*
  8. Increases blood flow in the brain.

* Wonder if all this singing we do with Fleur plus Galahad’s piano practice is part of why she is a happy child? After all, we’ve been leveraging singing as a way to distract Miss Wriggly.

 

Doing > Being

medium_1987_0118__0008_

“Charles A.Lindbergh Perfusion Pump | Science Museum Group Collection” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA NULL

Having a love of science, I naturally was interested in the pipeline from starting to learn to becoming a scientist. Fleur has a couple strikes against her in the current environment in that she is not white and female. We are a long way from getting there, but of course, I am interested in foundation work now. The framing nudge described below is interesting. I think it probably applies to many different kinds of interests. People who conceive of themselves as capable of doing the work are more likely to have an interest in doing it than those who think of themselves as budding members of the job.

Ryan Lei and colleagues recruited 212 children in 2nd and 3rd grade (about 7-9 years old) at two diverse publicly funded schools in New York City. The kids were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one group always received “identity-focused” language about science (that implied that scientists are a specific category of people), while the other always received “action-focused” language (that implied science is an activity that anyone can do).

For instance, at the beginning of the study the kids saw a video that introduced them to the scientific process. For the identity-focused group, the narrator of the video used phrases like “scientists make thoughtful guesses to help them learn about the world”. The action-focused group, on the other hand, heard language like “when people do science, they make thoughtful guesses to help them learn about the world”.

At three points across the academic year, the children answered questions measuring their attitudes towards science, including their levels of interest (either how much they wanted to “be a scientist” or “do science”, depending on the group they were in), and how good they thought they’d be (either at “being a scientist” or “doing science”). At the second and third testing points, they were also asked to judge how many parents of other children at school “were scientists” or “did science”.

Overall, the children in the action-focused group had a greater interest in “doing science” than those in the identity-focussed group had in “being a scientist”. The action-focused group also rated themselves higher in their scientific abilities, and they thought that more adults “did science” compared with how many people the identity group thought “were scientists”.

Loss of possession is 9/10ths of the screaming

“Mine” is not yet in the vocabulary, but surely it will enter it soon. Taking things Fleur has in her hands upsets her. So. Very. Much.

  • Her sippy cup
  • Her Whiffleball flail
  • Her puff or melt container
  • Food we missed getting up off the floor after a meal
closeup photo of black and green foosball table

Photo by Soumya Ranjan on Pexels.com

Humans have a well developed and easy to exploit sense of loss aversion. (Kahneman and Tversky) We experience far more pain when losing something than the pleasure we experience from gaining. The gambler who “feels” their luck is about to change for the better, is experienced severe pain and relies on the hope of restoration to relieve it by winning back enough to not be down.

At her age, we find it more effective to give Fleur something she enjoys to occupy both hands which necessitates letting go of the something we want to take.

No all the time am I consistent about this. This morning she found an M&M someone had left on the floor. When I asked, “What did you find?” She speed-toddled away from me. The room was gated up, so she could not go far, but she got as far as she could as fast as she could. I was so proud that she knew I was coming to take it and made the choice to hold on to it as long as possible.

Birthrate

At times I wonder if pro-choice is a strategy. Industrialized countries tend to slow their birth rates. We don’t have to create giant families to work farms anymore. As people move into cities, life gets more expensive and harder to independently sustain. And, there is a still trying to be understood phenomenon where fertility drops as well*.

The United States is at the lowest birth rate in 30 years.

The fertility rate of 1.7 births per U.S. woman also fell 2%, meaning the current generation isn’t making enough babies to replace itself. The fertility rate is a hypothetical estimate based on lifetime projections of age-specific birth rates… If trends continue, experts said, the U.S. can expect labor shortages including in elder care when aging baby boomers need the most support.

man person cute young

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Policymakers are facing choices on whether to encourage American families to have more children versus for more immigration to compensate versus in allowing the economy to shrink.

More immigration from the poor nearby countries where people strongly desire to come here is antithetical to conservatives. These are not people who look like the mythical American, so naturally, conservatives are against this idea. This explains why the southern US border is such a battle ground why the far more porous and crossed and overstayed northern US border with a population who looks like the mythical American is fine.

Allowing the economy to shrink is great for solving things like pollution, deforestation, and production constraints. Why does the economy need grow other than increasing wealth? Wealth that accumulates to benefit the 0.1% most. However, not growing fast enough is what puts an economy into a recession or worse a depression. The leaders of our country are rated on how well they keep it growing and employers tend to lay off people at signs of a slow growth. And with automation taking jobs, we need to grow faster to sustain jobs.

Getting American families to use less birth control and eliminating abortions promotes more children being born. More children born could get the birth rate back up to the replacement rate. If the people who have more children resemble the mythical American, then that is the best way to ensure Americans resemble the country conservatives want. Of course, if those children are not the right type, then the country could end up looking wrong anyway.

* My hypothesis is we sense the crowding around us and lower our fertility to not create too many people. If the fertility rate is lower in more crowded cities, then that might confirm that idea.

120 bits a day for native language acquisition

Some researchers at U. Rochester and U. Cal. Berkeley attempted to estimate how much information a child learns to acquire a native language.

To put our lower estimate in perspective, each day for 18 years a child must wake up and remember, perfectly and for the rest of their life, an amount of information equivalent to the information in this sequence:

0110100001101001011001000110010001100101
0110111001100001011000110110001101101111
0111001001100100011010010110111101101110

Even at the lower end, it suggests the presence of mechanisms in the brain that help in language acquisition. I guess a question I have is what is the threshold for there not to be one? (The upper end is almost 2,000 bits a day.)

And we are talking about every bit here being new information.  Similar to the Five Books a Day post, these are NEW bits every day.

The amounts are staggering to me. And it strikes me how impressively children learn about the world, categorize the data, and synthesize it into information. The challenge as a parent is to ensure the child gets enough exposure to acquire all this data.

Ninja Brain

The Ninja Brain: Humans Can Prioritise Meaningful Sounds Even While Asleep:

Teenage mutant ninja turtles

Teenage mutant ninja turtles by Adrián Pérez

We often think of sleep as a chance to switch off from the outside world, leaving us blissfully ignorant of anything going on around us. But neuroscience research has shown this is a fantasy – we still monitor the environment and respond to particular sounds while we’re sleeping (at least in some stages of sleep) – a fact that will be unsurprising to anyone who has woken up after hearing someone say their name.

A better example is anyone who has woken up after hearing their infant moving around. Part of the sensitivity is making sure the kiddo is okay. She is snoring? Good. Cannot hear anything at all? Is she breathing? This assessment that everything is fine occurs while still sleep-addled, which to me is amazing. Most likely the movement means in about 10 minutes she is going to wake up.

Probably this was good for keeping us alive on the savannah. Lions are nocturnal (night awake) where we are diurnal (day awake). It would be good for us to be able to sense the noises of a predator possibly coming to hunt us.

Swallowing button batteries

Recently, I shared a funny story about doctors swallowing LEGOs for science. This is a darker story about children swallowing more dangerous things. The number of foreign objects swallowing deaths is up in part because of a proliferation of button batteries which stomach acids can rupture.

Kids under six tend to swallow things. As electronics have gotten smaller, button batteries have become more common to power them. Several hundred thousand kids are estimated to have swallowed something enough to warrant an ER visit. Thousands of cases are fatal.

The recommendation is to give the kid older than a year honey to help neutralize the stomach acid and take the kid to the emergency room.