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The Secret Life of the Brain:

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Evan Harding

on 16 November 2013

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Transcript of The Secret Life of the Brain:

The Secret Life of the Brain:
The 5 Stages of Brain Development

Where it All Begins:
The Baby's Brain - Wider Than the Sky
How is the Brain Changing and Developing?
The Child's Brain:
From Syllable to Sound
The Teenage Brain:
A World of Their Own
How is the Brain
Changing and Developing?
The Adult Brain:
Thinking by Feeling
How is the Brain Changing and Developing?
The Aging Brain:
Through Many Lives
How is the Brain Changing and Developing?

-Development like a play; follows script that is written down in a genetic code. However, no director, producer, and no actors have spoken their lines before. In spite of this, play is pulled off without a hitch.
-By four months since knowledge of pregnancy, brain cells growing at rate of 500,000 cells per minute
-Neurons travel in migration to form brain, each finding their own place in the brain; the places of the neurons depend on their neighbours in migration
-Connections of neurons that are used more often are strengthened, becoming more stable than other connections that may wither and die if not used; ‘Use it or lose it’
-Child recognizes everything about mother from fragrance to face to whisper

What Influences the Brain? (Positively/Negatively)

-Premature babies may have difficulty with planning, prioritizing, structuring, etc., in later life. Also more hypersensitive, more easily stimulated
-Amount of stimulation taken in at young age is very, very important for the brain’s development & development of senses. ie, vision at young age.
-Most experiences affect the brain in a very critical way, as imprinting and learning are at critical stages in infancy
What are the Experts Saying?

-Als says that clamour of intensive care unit is partially to blame for premature babies’ difficulty in later life:
-Premature brain faced with more challenges than it would be if it were inside the womb
-Mriganka Sur says that environment writes on a developing brain, but does not write on a blank slate

How Do Experiences
Influence the Development?

-Comparing nature vs nurture:
-Switched wiring in infant ferret’s brain so that eyes were now associated with what usually develops as the auditory part of the brain
-If the auditory part becomes visual, then nurture (experience) is more important
-If auditory part doesn’t work as visual part, nature (genetics) is more important
-Result: The ferrets could see with this part of their brain, but not as well as with the visual part. Environment (experiences) shapes the brain, but can’t completely change genetic destiny.
-Brain development never stops

Problems/Difficulties in Brain Development

-If certain connections aren’t emphasized or strengthened enough in childhood years, then the terminals in the brain may weaken and possibly die
-Premature baby brains not fully developed; vulnerable; brain cells not finished forming links
-Difficult for infant to see at first - In some way, this is a good thing. Brain can’t handle full vision. Brain purposely muddles vision so that the stimulation is light enough for child to take in
-Children with cataract has surgery to remove cataract, and then a patch must be put over good eye so that the development can be matched between both eyes

How is the Brain Changing and Developing?

-Language development - profound, mysterious changes
-Scientists curious whether baby’s brains can pick up on slight physical differences in words. For instance, ‘Chi’ (Mandarin) and ‘She’
-Babies have incredibly exquisite language to detect differences between all sounds used in the words languages. They are ‘citizens of the world’, whereas we are very culture-bound listeners. They culturalize to a specific language at 11 months.
-Languages influence left cerebral hemisphere
-13-month old babies listen and understand with both hemispheres
-by 20 months, language shifts to left hemisphere.
-Vision, hearing, judgement, memory, and many separate functions all come together to learn how to read. In this sense, reading can be considered a form of multitasking

What Influences the Brain?

-If age influences the language shift to the left hemisphere, then both languages should provoke activity in the left hemisphere
-However if the shift to the left hemisphere is vocabulary-based, the English words should produce activity in both hemispheres while Spanish words should only produce activity in the left
-Once again, in this instance it was experience, or in this example vocabulary, which influenced the shift.

What Are Experts Saying?
-Learning is about connection, connectivity and exuberance - all very present in child’s brain
-Children may have abilities to hear and process speech in place in right hemisphere to acquire language, and they can build on those abilities and develop language (again, if necessary)
-Different language functions may be affected differently by age
-Reading is an example of the most everyday human cognitive performances we have (Maryanne Wolf)
-Dyslexic children never really understand that one word may be made up of several sounds
How Do Experiences Influence the Brain's Development

-Repeated experiences decide which connections of the brain stay or go
-Through repetition, child with delayed language development slowly catches up with where his language skills should be at that age
-Brain is highly adaptable
-The young brain shows greater ability to change than older brain’s

Problems or Difficulties in the Brain Development

-Children can have unexplained difficulties, such as problematic or delayed development of language skills
-Some children have powerful seizures and can lose the ability to talk do to failure of one hemisphere in their brain. Because of this, they’ve had to have a specialized surgery to remove the faulty half of their brain, which left them having to learn to walk and talk, and accomplish very basic tasks again.
-This impairment doesn’t affect his ability to understand speech, only his ability to speak. The right hemisphere has adapted to perform the same processes as the left brain
-Reading can be a struggle that has nothing to do with children's’ ability to think or reason
-Dyslexia impairs children from being able to transfer meaning from writing
-Defined as the inability to learn to process written language
-Brains of some dyslexic children are not active in areas responsible for dissecting words into their constituent sounds
-At Lindamood-Bell, they believe they must stimulate their ability to give cautious attention to what they feel when they produce a particular sound

-At this point, brain is full-sized, but not yet fully developed
-Adolescence is last great time of enormous brain change and brain development
-Much development in this stage in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decisions, morality, personal responsibility, self-control, and making us uniquely human
-Schizo may be a result of the lack of harmony in the prefrontal cortex
-Also may be related to over-sized ventricles in schizo brain - growing of ventricles perhaps squishing prefrontal cortex?

What Influences the Brain?

-Peer pressure becomes a much bigger influence for the adolescent teen brain, as peers’ and friends’ opinions are mattering more and more to each other
-In adolescence, teens are exposed to all kinds of negative influences in the world, some more popular ones being drugs and alcohol
-Addiction is a disease of the brain which affects thinking, emotion, and behaviour; much like schizophrenia and depression

What Are the Experts Saying?

-Schizophrenia is an enigma; Never been possible to distinguish an obvious disease-related feature that distinguishes schizo from all other conditions (Daniel Weinberger)
-Schizophrenia affects the highest human functions; the functions of us that are the most evolutionarily advanced (Nancy C. Andreasen)
-Enormous potential for change in teenage brain, as brain is far more flexible and adaptable (Jay Giedd)
-Schizophrenia drives so many to suicide because they feel as though they’ve lost themselves (Andreasen)
-Drug leads to feeling of hopelessness, leaving you to belief that the only thing you can do to have pleasure is to re-administer the drug (James C. Berman)

How Do Experiences Influence the Brain?

-Much like in child and baby’s brain, the teen brain forms new connections or strengthens connections that are used more often, but prunes connections that are rarely used
-Negative influences such as Schizophrenia can influence the brain by making the person more depressed and scared, but also making their response to usual emotional stimulators very different than usual
-Very negative feelings common, not being able to feel anything at all even more common
-Experiences that are more common among teenagers such as experimenting with drugs can lead to addiction much easier in the teenage years, both because of the addictiveness of the drug and the still naivety of the teenage brain
-People who need more alcohol to get drunk are more likely to become alcoholics, because they don’t realize the powerful effects of alcohol on their behaviour
-Past experiences influence future desires - If a long-time cocaine addict sees a video about drug usage, they’ll have more brain activity than when viewing a video about nature
-Critical part of the brain has been hijacked by drugs of abuse; been rewired so behaviour is focused on the life of obtaining and using drugs - only way out is to stop the automatic response

Problems/Difficulties in Brain Development

-Risks come along with ability to consider choices more
-Addictive drugs and alcohol, which can ‘hijack’ the brain
-Chaos of schizophrenia and other mental disorders
-Sign of schizo may be found in early years - baby crawling asymmetrically, chasing something with only one hand
-Schizo may result in:
-Loss of self, of emotion, and gain of major depression
-Voices in head, often encouraging self-harmful ideas towards host
-Frequent and vivid hallucinations

-Brain developing the processes to reason, judge, understand
-Develops very highly choreographed relationship between thinking and feeling areas of the brain - one affects other at all times
-This is the period of time when brain reaches full development and also begins to slow down developmentally, as person growing into old age
-Depression becomes very common around middle age
-As brain ages the prefrontal cortex has tendency to grow dull and silent, often considered a major contributor to depression in adult years

What Influences the Brain?

-Emotions, as recently discovered, have a physical place in the brain
-Emotions have influence on our decisions
-Emotions linked to memories have influence our future decisions
-Traumatic experiences can influence the brain by causing PTSD or resulting in normal residual stress
-Can result in many symptoms such as lack of sleep which can also have very negative influences on the brain
-Frontal cortex, which usually differentiates between real threats and non-threats is held hostage by volatile amygdala
-Thinking is hijacked by emotion
-Chronic depression often found to be genetic - therefore, genes influence depression levels of the brain
-One of the consequences of early childhood trauma, likely that brain does not form the normal connections, which will have consequences in adulthood

What Are Experts Saying?

-Previously thought that brain was divided into emotion and thought, and that they interfered -- completely incorrect theory
-Impossible to have properly working reason system without properly working emotion system… “We are not thinking machines, we are feeling machines that think
-People with PTSD are very sensitively tuned to pick up threats
-In the state of intense depression, the balance between emotion, feelings, thinking, and reasoning becomes out of whack
-Therapy - Brain learning a skill - systematic practice leads to demonstrable change in behaviour

How Do Experiences Influence Brain Development?

-Often we respond to emotions physically and immediately without considering it
-Experiences influence our future decisions because of the emotions attached to the memory. ie; ‘That hurt. I won’t do that again.’
-Test subjects shown many normal, expression-lacking faces, and one horrified face while brain is being scanned
-Upon review, it was clear that the amygdala took notice of this single face out of the large group of faces
-Any experiences of emotion can be picked up with the well-developed brain. These experiences influence the brain in training it, helping its development.
Problems/Difficulties in Brain Development

-As brain gets older, more prone to health threats such as strokes
-As well as paralyzing parts of the body, this can also cut off all emotions - stroke can kill part of brain to feel things
-Even if person may feel the emotion, they are not aware of it.
-In Marvin’s case. the amygdala responds to the emotion, sending signals through the body to respond physically, and then the signal is sent back to the brain where usually, it would register the emotion and respond to it mentally. However, this is the stage in which he had his stroke
-Problem with emotion is when said emotion lasts for longer period of time than normal
-Depression a very common issue for the adult brain

-Elements such as memory and old procedural tasks breaking down
-Stage in life of having memory and reviewing and reminiscing
-Processing of information slows from 20 years of age onwards
-Reflecting upon experiences and information collected throughout their lifetime - wisdom
-Even into old age, brain is producing new neurons
-Losing abilities like reading, writing, speaking, especially remembering
-Developing plaques and tangles - possible result or cause of Alzheimer’s

What Influences the Brain?

-Medical conditions such as strokes can influence the brain greatly by shutting down parts of the brain
-Recovery from paralysis also has great influence on the brain - example of taking control of your own brain , even in old age
-Age obviously influences the brain and brain development by slowing it, possible greatly
-Physical activity can help very much to reverse the effects of aging
-Alzheimer's Disease very common disease influencing the brain development of many aging brains
-impairs ability to read, write, speak and especially remember

What Are Experts Saying?

-Amount of area of brain involved in producing movement or receiving sensation keeps changing continuously based on amount of use that part of the body gets
-Now matter how old or aged a person’s brain becomes, the
plasticity of the brain remains undiminished
Brain is like a muscle
- more you exercise it, better it gets
-Brain stays full of cells - very little brain cells are lost through age
-Exercise helps to keep brain healthy by boosting production of vital brain proteins
-Some memories profoundly embedded in our psychic structure
-Stem cells can replace lost neurons

How Do Experiences Influence Brain Development

-Eventually, after years of development, experiences begin to slow the brain's development, and slow down the processes of the brain
-Experiences perform great influences in the aging brain, because it’s the main reason for many of the aging person’s actions - the older person reflects on their experiences, they become slower because of the experiences, and the experiences at this point have generated who they are as people
-Big factor of how quickly people lose their memory is genetics
-Another big factor is amount of activity, mental or physical

-Strokes also common at this point in life
-Good example of how the body is breaking down through age
-Loss of use of limbs can be regenerated, showing that
although the body is old, it can still develop and learn to operate again
-As age becomes more apparent, loss of memory is a common problem that is associated with it
-Other diseases such as Parkinsons present growing threats
-Thousands of brain cells slowly dying
-Body starting to feel stiff and trembly

Problems/Difficulties in Brain Development
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