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Everything important is decided by the age of three.

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Lisa Tyler

on 7 December 2012

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Transcript of Everything important is decided by the age of three.

The Science Hubel and Wiesel, 1965; kittens • Hubel &Wiesel famously decided to look at the visual cortex of a cat

• Within the first several months after birth kittens had eye sutured shut until 6 months old

• At 6 months eyelid was reopened and cat was presented with light stimuli in both eyes

• Previously sutured eye had abnormally low neurons compared to the untouched eye which had abnormally high levels

•The cat’s visual cortex was irreversibly altered Greenough et al. 1987: rats Goldman-Rakic, 1986: monkeys Enriched environments enhance the brains capacity for learning

William Greenough et al (1985) developed three environmental conditions to discover how rearing conditions affect the brain structure of rats. These environmental conditions were:

•Isolated environment- rat inhabits a small laboratory cage by itself

•Social environment- rat lives in a large cage with several other animals

•Complex environment- rat lives in larger enclosures with other animals- there are toys and obstacles-changed regularly to keep rats amused (Natural- wild environment) Goldman-Rakic et al scrutinised the changes in synaptic densities throughout development in 4 areas of the rhesus monkey brain;

Visual Area

Somatosensory Area (touch)

Motor Area (movement)

Prefrontal Cortex (memory)

They found the same general development pattern. Decreases in SD are due to genuine synapse elimination in the brain. This confirmed that a rapid increase followed by rapid decrease in SD occurs throughout the areas of the brain not just the previously confirmed Visual Area. The Preschool Classroom Policy Initiatives of the Zero-to-Three Movement

-Carnegie Foundation "Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children.", 1994
-Warning that America’s inadequate care for children was leading to a crisis, used five findings from neuroscience:

•the brain's extensive development in the early years (more so than previously believed)

•the brain’s development as susceptible to environmental influence (again, more than previously believed)

•that the effects of an early environment can be long-lasting

•this means that the brain is "hard-wired" differently from the early years

•in addition, early stress has been proven to have a negative impact on brain function The connection Neuromyths, synaptogenesis:

"children's ability to learn... increases from the first years of life through adolescence in an inversely proportional way to the number of synapses they're losing. So this idea that you learn best when you have the most synapses is patently false when you look at learning curves for various tasks." (Bruer) Enriched environments: ‘Whereas extreme environmental and sensory deprivation can clearly be harmful, enriched environments do not necessarily improve brain development (Blakemore and Frith, 2005).’

Greenough's experiment:

highly artificial conditions

conducted on rodents

conclusion that synaptogenesis is relevant in education was not made by scientists

facts were used to ‘extrapolate conclusions that go well beyond the original evidence’

no scientific link made between synaptic density and learning

(Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, 2007) Synapses- myth: synapses are made and determined by age of 3

•New neurons can appear at any time in a person's life.

•brain is able to reorganise itself in response to experience or injury throughout life
evidence in studies on both animals and humans

•Pruning is not finished until late adolescence or early childhood.

•practice and development of certain still leads to larger representation area Whilst the research does not indicate that everything important in the brain is decided before the age of three, it has not been without benefits. Authentic neuroscience can:

•Engage the interest of educators

•Be vital to in dispelling neuromyths

•Contribute insights into underlying learning processes to inform practice.

(Howard-Jones, 2012) The implications of what neuroscience interpretations may have missed? Conclusion???

To conclude, we conclude our conclusion is concluding that there is a conclusion.

To conclude, we conclude our conclusion is concluding that there is a conclusion.

To conclude, we conclude our conclusion is concluding that there is a conclusion. Critical Periods

It can occur in human development!

1950s- Doctors discovered that a congenital cataract in an infant’s eye was much more serious than a cataract that developed later on in life.

Critical period of visual development- during early childhood. Cataract damage during this critical time may therefore cause abnormal visual experience. Other evidence: children Neuromyths: biology vs culture

Deficiency in children's numerical aptitude not biological

In some cultures this type of numeracy is not relevant

Adults developmental trajectory same as 4-6 year olds

(Bruer) -Actor/Director, Rob Reiner, campaigned and formed the ‘I Am Your Child Foundation’ in 1997:

"It has been determined that a child's first three years are the most critical in brain development, yet these crucial years have inadvertently been neglected."

-The 1997 White House Conference on Early Development and Learning proposed:

Provision of healthcare to five million children without cover

Expansion of Early Head Start (for children up to three years)

Ready-set-read activity programme distribution nationwide

-California Children and Families First Act, 1998, invested funds raised from taxation on tobacco and invested it in early childcare and education

Moughty, 2002 Greenough discovered that:

Complex- environment rats- superior to rats in other environmental conditions

20- 25% more synapses per neuron in the visual cortex than the isolated rats

Learned to run through mazes more quickly and effectively

Learning occurs when new synapses are formed- a response to the brains requirement to store information

New experiences in the complex environment cause more learning- more synapses are formed Everything important about the brain is decided by the age of three. Dekker et al. 2012

95% of UK Teachers, and 56% of Dutch Teachers, believed the following statement:

"Environments that are rich in stimulus improve the brains of pre-school children"

33% of UK Teachers, and 52% of Dutch Teachers, believed the following statement:

"There are critical periods in childhood after which certain things can no longer be learned." Critical period for acquisition of language

‘The Wild Boy of Averyron’ (1800) - not exposed to language until after puberty - only acquired a few rudiments of language. Missed critical period for language acquisition

Genie- wasn’t exposed to language until the age of 13- never mastered English grammar. Language development and grammar acquisition could never reach a ‘normal’ standard- suggests critical period had been missed Suggesting everything important is decided before the age of three overlooks the importance of providing interventions for adolescents. The adolescent brain:

goes through hormonal, physical, social, and cognitive changes

contributes to young people acquiring a new awareness of themselves and others

enables youngsters to gain social awareness in general and to start huge changes in development It may also overlook opportunities for lifelong learning. MRI scans have provided opportunities to examine brain structure and functioning over a lifespan. The brain even continues to change after adolescence!

• UCLA group: children 7-11, adolescents 12-16 and young adults 23-30

• Evidence for decrease in gray matter between childhood and adolescence in the frontal cortex

•Also revealed amount of white matter in frontal lobes continued to increase up to the age of 30

(2005 Blakemore and Firth p.118) Lifelong learning

‘Research in the past few years has shown that the adult brain, at least in certain regions, is almost as malleable as a child brain. Brain plasticity means the ability of the nervous system to adapt continually to changing circumstances’. (2005 Blakemore and Firth p.124).

This is significant because it illustrates that the brain continuously adapts to the environment and asserts that everything important about the brain is not decided by the age of three! Two main changes in adolescent brain development before and after puberty:

• Increase in white matter in the frontal cortex after puberty compared with before.

• Large decrease in the density of synapses in the frontal cortex after puberty Neuromyths: environment

Children’s learning is based on, and varies with, their pre-existing knowledge

Case & Griffin showed kindergarten kids struggling with numeracy were not less intelligent

Rather, there was a specific gap in their prior knowledge

Their environment effects this, since those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to have a deficit of prior familiarity with the basic concepts

Armed with this information, practitioners were able to design a curriculum to address the difference and bring those children up to the required level, which can be achieved within a year. In addition interventions for children between three and five years old have also proved effective:

Heckman’s Perry Preschool Experiment

•Three year olds given high-quality preschool education (test group)

•Three year olds given no preschool education at all (control group)

•Most recent analysis of group done at 40 years

•Test group 20% more likely to have graduated from high school

•19% less likely to have been arrested more than five times

•Better grades, more likely to remain married, less dependent on welfare programs Tucker-Drob:

•Two year olds from poorer households: home environment accounted for approximately 80% of individual variance in mental ability

•Those from wealthy households: genetics primarily determined performance (accounting for 50% of all variation in mental ability)

But this does not mean that any potentially detrimental effects of a child's environment are irreversible, unless there is a critical period where the window of opportunity for learning closes at three years old. Windows of plasticity in brain development:
Takao, 2012 (citing Hensch, 2005) These 'neuromyths' may cause more harm than good. Sociocultural theories (eg. Engestrom's activity theory), suggest that interaction of a variety of factors effect learning. To make a thorough analysis of any activity, all aspects should be considered.
•Hubel and Wiesel later found…

When eye of an adult cat is sutured shut for a year and then reopened there is no effect on visual cortex


Unless cat is deprived of sight in the first 3 months, there is no effect Other benefits include:

•Encouraging people to question a belief in ‘hard-wired’ genetics that cannot be influenced or improved with interventions

•Prompting interest in (and funding for) pre-school intervention programmes, and the founding of the ‘National Research Council Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development’

(Twardosz, 2012) What’s more, whilst not everything important is decided by the age of three, research has highlighted some important things that appear to be learnt best before around the age of three.

Current research can build on this to investigate more useful pedagogical interventions:

•Interactive robots may help teach language to toddlers

•They interact autonomously with learners toddlers (18 – 24 months)

•‘Interaction with the social robot over a 10-day period resulted in a significant increase in vocabulary’ compared with a control group

(Meltzodd et al. 2009) Makinodan et al. 2012 What neuroscience has taught us about the brains of toddlers:
•Oversimplifying or misinterpreting neuroscience can lead to errors in application

•Money is made selling un-tested learning programmes that have no basis in science

•Unsuspecting consumers, usually vulnerable new parents, are susceptible to such marketing Funds may be wasted on interventions that are based on misinformation:

•Money was channeled into buying classical music to give to parents of newborns

•Based on a study that showed adults spatial-temporal reasoning improved in the short-term

•Interventions like this give the impression that a ‘quick fix’ exists to make babies more intelligent Meltzoff et al, 2009 ‘At a recent conference held to mark the launch of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education at the University of Cambridge, teachers reported receiving more than 70 mailshots a year encouraging them to attend courses on brain-based learning’

Teachers are encouraged to understand pupils learning styles.

Example -‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’ learners, because individuals ‘prefer’ one type of processing

Commercial brain based learning packages, Example - Brain Gym

‘Brain Gym’ ensures that ‘true’ education happens. Brain Gym prescribes a series of simple body movements to integrate all areas of the brain to enhance learning”. (2006 Goswami p.2) Critical Periods- myth: critical periods up to age of 3

•There is no critical period, although there are periods of higher levels of brain plasticity and neural activity, plasticity
is part of a person life. A person is always able to learn.

•Different peaks in development happen at different times in a person's life.
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