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Child Development neuroscience Parenting

Human brains more responsive to musical tones than macaque monkey ones

monkey eating bananas
Photo by Rajesh Balouria on Pexels.com

I’ve written before about singing to Fleur to get her attention and how music is good for the brain. If this fMRI data on human brains compared to macaque monkey ones holds up, then there might be a developmental difference in brains that allows us to be more attuned to musical tones.

“When the researchers looked more closely at the data, they found evidence suggesting the human brain was highly sensitive to tones. The human auditory cortex was much more responsive than the monkey cortex when they looked at the relative activity between tones and equivalent noisy sounds.”

The researchers wondered what kind of auditory experience our ancestors had that caused this difference. The same structure also responds to speech, which might explain some of our qualities of speech. Music and talking are intertwined. So, child development being responsive to music makes sense in that they are wired to learn and we adults are doing so with both music and speech.

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Child Development Parenting

We are being watched

cropped-2018-12-02-15.10.42I noticed a while back Fleur would track my own attention habits. She also lingered on things, even returned to them well after I stopped.

Yu and IU colleague Linda Smith evaluated attention span in infants at play. The team employed head-mounted cameras to track the eye movements and gazes of three dozen parents and infants aged 11 to 13 months, who were turned loose in a play space and asked to simply play as they would at home with brightly colored plastic objects.

This kind of “free play” data enabled Yu and Smith to chart childhood concentration and learning in ways that traditional experiments involving a single child at work on a computer or other task could not, notes cognitive neuroscientist Sam Wass, of Cambridge University and the University of East London. “They show that what the parent is paying attention to, minute by minute and second by second, actually influences what the child is paying attention to,” he notes. “These kinds of social influences on attention are potentially very important [and] most scientists tend to ignore them.”

When parents paid attention to a toy during play, the infants also continued to focus on it—even after the mom or dad had turned elsewhere. The authors likened this effect to the way a parent will initially hold the back of a bike while their child learns to peddle before letting go and sending them off on their own.

We also try to label things to which Fleur is paying attention. And have also noticed the problem the article describes of not having much success getting her to shift her attention to something.

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Parenting Problem Solving

Smile timing

Fleur makes us work at times to get great smiles for photos. As she has gotten older, it seemed like she has gotten more crafty about getting more. Then I ran across this nugget of confirmation bias:

The research team found that by timing their smile precisely, babies can elicit maximum smiles with little effort on their part.

My wife fills up her phone trying to get the perfect smile because the toddler is manipulating the adults to get entertained enough to bestow upon us a photo worthy one.

Proud of her.

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Child Development neuroscience Parenting Problem Solving

Being a Musician Is Good for the Brain

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

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Headphones by Ezra Freelove
  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.

 

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Behavioral Economics Education Parenting

Doing > Being

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“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”.

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Economics Parenting

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.

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Parenting

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.

Categories
Health Parenting

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.

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Parenting

Singing as a baby wrangling tool

brown rabbit
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I never thought I would sing this much. I mean Disney princess movies and musicals are not my interest. But, a fragment of a song works to calm the baby, so I do it. I prefer it to the authoritarian Dad Voice. I use specific songs during specific tasks. And she really likes certain ones, so I’ve settled on them. Some examples:

  • A bastardization of “Stayin’ Alive” that is “Stayin’ Dry” while changing the diaper
  • Old MacDonald when she is bored in the carseat or resisting having to wear clothes
  • Little Bunny Foo Foo when she wants Mama who is occupied (she anticipates my bonks on her head)

I’ve kind of gotten into a rut. I need to pick up some new songs. Please suggest your favorites.

Categories
Parenting

The authoritarian magicalness of Dad Voice

There is that moment where you say the child’s name but an octave lower. It gets the child to pause and look at you. Really, the whole point right now is to create a pause long enough to complete corrective action. Once Fleur is older, we can look at using it like Adrienne Hedger demonstrates in her comic.

Back on an early date with the wife, we were with a group on a night hike. A mother called out a girl’s name who ignored her. I called out her name but in the Dad Voice. She stopped. And slowly turned around. I told her her mother wanted her. The guy behind me said he was glad his name was not the little girl’s.

I did not expect to be using it so soon. But, occasionally Fleur gets wiggly when I am changing a soiled diaper. The Dad Voice gets her attention long enough to get the next step when the sweetly cooing doesn’t.

Pleading? Ineffective.

Bargaining? She doesn’t understand yet.

The authoritarian name drop? It works.

It doesn’t make me feel great. But, I only pull it out when I really need to finish something important. Like, I don’t when she is just being active in a family space. Or about to eat a leaf or trash. Those get a normal distraction of “look at this” to get the second I need to get to her hand. I don’t want to acclimate her to this tool and ruin its efficacy.