Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight was recommended to me by both my mom (for better insight into my dad’s stroke) and by Andy (who thought it rather interesting) and by Mark at The Committed Parent. But we don’t listen, do we… not until some strange dark night of the soul sends us scrambling, under a fully agitated moon, fingers restlessly crossing bookbindings and dust like a spider, searching for wolfsbane, or phosphorus, or just the right page in some arcane alchemical text… searching for the balm, for just the ticket to soothe the savage heart.
Posts Tagged ‘brain development’
Perhaps today is a good day to take seven minutes and forty-four seconds to watch a TED talk on mirror neurons by Vilayanur Ramachandran.
Whether you watch or not, Ramachandran might posit that you already know about it… at least at some unconscious level—because you gave that talk (at least the part of you that is Vilayanur Ramachandran).
While this sort of talk is all too familiar to aging new-agers and adherents of Eastern ideas, the fact that it is making its way into the corridors of Western science, by way of mirror neurons, strikes me as significant: what neuroscientists are discovering in the laboratory, the Buddha discovered under the Bodhi Tree: there is no independent self, no distinction, ultimately, between your consciousness and my consciousness.
Most readers of this blog would be way too young to know of the famous murder-for-no-reason done by a couple of rich Chicago teens, Leopold and Loeb, back in the 1920s. I knew about it because my dad told me the story with some personal interest since the case was broken by the identification of eye-glasses found at the murder scene—specs identified by my dad’s childhood optometrist.
I reference it here because it was called the “crime of the century” and Clarence Darrow argued against the death penalty for the young killers. It comes to my mind because of the relationship not between Leopold and Loeb (they were lovers), but between Lobe and Loeb—more precisely the frontal lobe of the brain.
Here’s a link that a friend sent me, a recent NPR piece on the teen brain. If you’re parenting a teen it’s worth the five minutes to listen.
The gist of it is that the frontal lobe of the brain (the part that is capable of asking, “is this a good idea?”) is not very well connected to the rest of the brain in teens. The thing that makes it better connected is myelin, a sheathing that makes the neural pathways faster and more effective. This process starts to kick-in around ten, which is an interesting taste of first angst in many a kid (see Ten-year-olds and their changing brains for more on that), but the brain and its frontal lobe connections don’t really reach full maturity until our twenties.
It might be at nine-years old, it might be at eleven, but somewhere around ten years of age children’s brains change in a significant, but often overlooked way. It’s at this stage that the brain’s cells begin to develop a sheathing along their bodies, a bit like bark developing on a tree trunk; this new development makes the brain a little less open to new connections and much faster along the connections it has built. This change has important implications for learning, but also for feeling.