Tag Archives: brain development

Drexel University study: New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics

27 May

Jonathan Cohn reported about an unprecedented experiment which occurred in Romanian orphanages in the New Republic article, The Two Year Window. There are very few experiments involving humans because of ethical considerations.

Drury, Nelson, and their collaborators are still learning about the orphans. But one upshot of their work is already clear. Childhood adversity can damage the brain as surely as inhaling toxic substances or absorbing a blow to the head can. And after the age of two, much of that damage can be difficult to repair, even for children who go on to receive the nurturing they were denied in their early years. This is a revelation with profound implication—and not just for the Romanian orphans.
APPROXIMATELY SEVEN MILLION American infants, toddlers, and preschoolers get care from somebody other than a relative, whether through organized day care centers or more informal arrangements, according to the Census Bureau. And much of that care is not very good. One widely cited study of child care in four states, by researchers in Colorado, found that only 8 percent of infant care centers were of “good” or “excellent” quality, while 40 percent were “poor.” The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has found that three in four infant caregivers provide only minimal cognitive and language stimulation—and that more than half of young children in non-maternal care receive “only some” or “hardly any” positive caregiving. http://www.tnr.com/article/economy/magazine/97268/the-two-year-window?page=0,0&passthru=YzBlNDJmMmRkZTliNDgwZDY4MDhhYmIwMjYyYzhlMjg

Because the ranks of poor children are growing in the U.S., this study portends some grave challenges not only for particular children, but this society and this country. Adequate early learning opportunities and adequate early parenting is essential for proper development in children. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/jonathan-cohns-the-two-year-window/

Michigan State University’s Office of Supportive Services succinctly states why math is important:

Why is math important?

All four year Universities have a math requirement

Math improves your skills:

• Critical Thinking Skills
• Deductive Logic and Reasoning Skills
• Problem Solving Skills

A good knowledge of math and statistics can expand your career options

Physical Sciences – Chemistry, Engineering, Physics

Life and Health Sciences – Biology, Psychology, Pharmacy, Nursing, Optometry

Social Sciences – Anthropology, Communications, Economics, Linquistics, Education, Geography

Technical Sciences – Computer Science, Networking, Software Development

Business and Commerce

Actuarial Sciences

Medicine

http://oss.msu.edu/academic-assistance/why-is-math-important

Often, the students who need the best math teachers are shortchanged.

Science Daily reported in New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics:

Parts of the brain not traditionally associated with learning science become active when people are confronted with solving physics problems, a new study shows.
The researchers, led by Eric Brewe, PhD, an associate professor in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, say this shows that the brain’s activity can be modified by different forms of instruction.
Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure blood flow in the brain, the researchers looked to map what areas become active when completing a physics reasoning task, both before a course on the concepts and after.
“The neurobiological processes that underpin learning are complex and not always directly connected to what we think it means to learn,” Brewe said of the findings, which were published in Frontiers in ICT.
More than 50 volunteer students took part in the study in which they were taught a physics course that utilized “Modeling Instruction,” a style of teaching which encourages students to be active participants in their learning.
Before they participated in the class, the students answered questions from an abridged version of the Force Concept Inventory while undergoing fMRI. The Force Concept Inventory is a test that assesses knowledge of physics concepts commonly taught in early college physics classes.
After the volunteer students completed their physics course, they again took the Force Concept Inventory, once more monitored by fMRI.
In the pre-instruction scans, parts of the brain associated with attention, working memory and problem solving — the lateral prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex, sometimes called the brain’s “central executive network” — showed activity.
“One of the keys seemed to be an area of the brain, the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, that generates mental simulations,” Brewe said. “This suggests that learning physics is an imaginative process, which is not typically how people think of it.”
After the subjects had completed their class, comparison of the pre- and post-learning scans revealed increased activity in the frontal poles, which was to be expected since they’ve been linked to learning. But there was another area that also became active: the posterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to episodic memory and self-referential thought.
“These changes in brain activity may be related to more complex behavioral changes in how students reason through physics questions post- relative to pre-instruction,” Brewe and his co-authors wrote about the study. “These might include shifts in strategy or an increased access to physics knowledge and problem-solving resources….” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180524141527.htm

Citation:

New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics
Date: May 24, 2018
Source: Drexel University
Summary:
A new study showed that, when confronted with physics problems, new parts of a student’s brain are utilized after receiving instruction in the topic.
Journal Reference:
1. Eric Brewe, Jessica E. Bartley, Michael C. Riedel, Vashti Sawtelle, Taylor Salo, Emily R. Boeving, Elsa I. Bravo, Rosalie Odean, Alina Nazareth, Katherine L. Bottenhorn, Robert W. Laird, Matthew T. Sutherland, Shannon M. Pruden, Angela R. Laird. Toward a Neurobiological Basis for Understanding Learning in University Modeling Instruction Physics Courses. Frontiers in ICT, 2018; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fict.2018.00010

Here is the press release from Science Daily:

New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics

May 24, 2018 by Frank Otto, Drexel University

Parts of the brain not traditionally associated with learning science become active when people are confronted with solving physics problems, a new study shows.

The researchers, led by Eric Brewe, Ph.D., an associate professor in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, say this shows that the brain’s activity can be modified by different forms of instruction.

Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure blood flow in the brain, the researchers looked to map what areas become active when completing a physics reasoning task, both before a course on the concepts and after.

“The neurobiological processes that underpin learning are complex and not always directly connected to what we think it means to learn,” Brewe said of the findings, which were published in Frontiers in ICT.

More than 50 volunteer students took part in the study in which they were taught a physics course that utilized “Modeling Instruction,” a style of teaching which encourages students to be active participants in their learning.
Before they participated in the class, the students answered questions from an abridged version of the Force Concept Inventory while undergoing fMRI. The Force Concept Inventory is a test that assesses knowledge of physics concepts commonly taught in early college physics classes.

After the volunteer students completed their physics course, they again took the Force Concept Inventory, once more monitored by fMRI.
In the pre-instruction scans, parts of the brain associated with attention, working memory and problem solving—the lateral prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex, sometimes called the brain’s “central executive network—showed activity.

“One of the keys seemed to be an area of the brain, the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, that generates mental simulations,” Brewe said. “This suggests that learning physics is an imaginative process, which is not typically how people think of it.”

After the subjects had completed their class, comparison of the pre- and post-learning scans revealed increased activity in the frontal poles, which was to be expected since they’ve been linked to learning. But there was another area that also became active: the posterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to episodic memory and self-referential thought.

“These changes in brain activity may be related to more complex behavioral changes in how students reason through physics questions post- relative to pre-instruction,” Brewe and his co-authors wrote about the study. “These might include shifts in strategy or an increased access to physics knowledge and problem-solving resources.”

One of the aims of the study was to further explore how the form of teaching used, Modeling Instruction, encourages students to use their own mental models to understand new concepts.

“The idea of mental models is something that people who research learning love to talk about, but have no evidence of what is happening inside brains other than what people say or do,” Brewe said. “We are actually looking for evidence from inside the brain.”

As such, Brewe and his fellow researchers think their study provides a good look at what might be typical when these “mental models” take hold.
But why physics? What makes this the ideal subject to study mental modeling in the brain?

Brewe said that there has been some research on the brain networks associated with learning math and reading. But mental modeling especially lends itself to physics, which has not gotten as much attention.

“Physics is a really good place to understand learning for two reasons,” Brewe said. “First, it deals with things that people have direct experience with, making formal classroom learning and informal understanding both relevant and sometimes aligned—and sometimes contrasted.”

“Second, physics is based in laws, so there are absolutes that govern the way the body works,” Brewe finished.

Moving forward, Brewe is excited by what this study opens up in his quest to improve physics learning in the United States and beyond.
“I would like to follow up on the question of mental simulations in physics, to see where that shows up at different levels of physics learning and with different populations,” he said. “But this whole study opens up many new areas of investigations and I’m pretty excited about how it will play out.”

Explore further: Scientists discover how the brain repurposes itself to learn scientific concepts

More information: Eric Brewe et al, Toward a Neurobiological Basis for Understanding Learning in University Modeling Instruction Physics Courses, Frontiers in ICT ( 2018). DOI: 10.3389/fict.2018.00010
Provided by: Drexel University

Moi has written about the importance of motivation in student learning. In Research papers: Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform, moi wrote:

Moi often says education is a partnership between the student, the teacher(s) and parent(s). All parties in the partnership must share the load. The student has to arrive at school ready to learn. The parent has to set boundaries, encourage, and provide support. Teachers must be knowledgeable in their subject area and proficient in transmitting that knowledge to students. All must participate and fulfill their role in the education process. A series of papers about student motivation by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) follows the Council on Foreign Relations report by Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein. https://drwilda.com/2012/05/30/research-papers-student-motivation-an-overlooked-piece-of-school-reform/

Every child deserves not only a good education, but a good math education.

Related:

Study: Gender behavior differences lead to higher grades for girls
https://drwilda.com/2013/01/07/study-gender-behavior-differences-lead-to-higher-grades-for-girls/

Girls and math phobia https://drwilda.com/2012/01/20/girls-and-math-phobia/

University of Missouri study: Counting ability predicts future math ability of preschoolers
https://drwilda.com/2012/11/15/university-of-missouri-study-counting-ability-predicts-future-math-ability-of-preschoolers/

Is an individualized program more effective in math learning?
https://drwilda.com/2012/10/10/is-an-individualized-program-more-effective-in-math-learning/

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:

COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART©
http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda Reviews ©
http://drwildareviews.wordpress.com/

r. Wilda ©
https://drwilda.com/

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New York University study: Infantile memory study points to critical periods in early-life learning for brain development

19 Jul

Prolonged stress can have adverse effects on humans. Moi wrote about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study in Study: Some of the effects of adverse stress do not go away:

Sarah D. Sparks writes in the Education Week article, Research Traces Impacts of Childhood Adversity:

Research from Dr. Shonkoff’s center and from other experts finds that positive stress—the kind that comes from telling a toddler he can’t have a cookie or a teenager that she’s about to take a pop quiz—causes a brief rise in heart rate and stress hormones. A jolt can focus a student’s attention and is generally considered healthy.

Similarly, a child can tolerate stress that is severe but may be relatively short-term—from the death of a loved one, for example—as long as he or she has support….

‘Toxic’ Recipe

By contrast, so-called “toxic stress” is severe, sustained, and not buffered by supportive relationships.

The same brain flexibility, called plasticity, that makes children open to learning in their early years also makes them particularly vulnerable to damage from the toxic stressors that often accompany poverty: high mobility and homelessness; hunger and food instability; parents who are in jail or absent; domestic violence; drug abuse; and other problems, according to Pat Levitt, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Southern California and the director of the Keck School of Medicine Center on the Developing Child in Los Angeles…. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/11/07/11poverty_ep.h32.html?tkn=QLYF5qldyT3U0BI0xqtD5885mihZIxwbX4qZ&cmp=clp-edweek

Here is information about the Adverse Child Experiences Study. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides access to the peer-reviewed publications resulting from The ACE Study. http://acestudy.org/

https://drwilda.com/2012/11/09/study-some-of-the-effects-of-adverse-stress-do-not-go-away/

Science Daily reported in Infantile memory study points to critical periods in early-life learning for brain development:

A new study on infantile memory formation in rats points to the importance of critical periods in early-life learning on functional development of the brain. The research, conducted by scientists at New York University’s Center for Neural Science, reveals the significance of learning experiences over the first two to four years of human life; this is when memories are believed to be quickly forgotten — a phenomenon known as infantile amnesia.

“What our findings tell us is that children’s brains need to get enough and healthy activation even before they enter pre-school,” explains Cristina Alberini, a professor in NYU’s Center for Neural Science, who led the study. “Without this, the neurological system runs the risk of not properly developing learning and memory functions…”

In their study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the researchers examined the mechanisms of infantile memory in rats — i.e., memories created 17 days after birth. This is the equivalent of humans under the age of three and when memories of who, what, when, and where — known as episodic memories — are rapidly forgotten. The phenomenon, referred as to “infantile or childhood amnesia,” is in fact the inability of adults to retrieve episodic memories that took place during the first two to four years of life.

In addressing this matter, Alberini and her colleagues compared rats’ infantile memory with that when they reached 24 days old — that is, when they are capable of forming and retaining long-term memories and at an age that roughly corresponds to humans at six to nine years old.

The episodic memory tested in the rodents was the memory of an aversive experience: a mild foot shock received upon entering in a new place. Adult rats, like humans, remember unpleasant or painful experiences that they had in specific places, and then avoid returning to them.

To do so, rodents were placed in a box divided into two compartments: a “safe” compartment and a “shock” compartment. During the experiment, each rat was placed in the safe compartment with its head facing away from the door. After 10 seconds, the door separating the compartments was automatically opened, allowing the rat access to the shock compartment. If the rat entered the shock compartment, it received a mild foot shock.

The first set of results was not surprising. The authors found infantile amnesia for the 17 day-old rats, which showed avoidance of the “shock” compartment right after the experience, but lost this memory very rapidly: a day later these rats quickly returned to this compartment. In contrast, the rats exposed to the shock compartment at 24 days of life learned and retained the memory for a long time and avoided this place — revealing a memory similar to that of adult rats.

However, remarkably, the younger rats, which had apparently forgotten the initial experience, subsequently showed they actually had kept a trace of the memory. When, later in life, these rats were prompted with reminders — i.e., they were presented with recollections of the context and the foot shock — they indicated having a specific memory, which was revealed by their avoidance of the specific context in which they received a shock at day 17 of life. These findings show how early life experience, although not expressed or remembered, can influence adult life behavior.

The findings raised the following question: what is occurring — neurologically — that explains why memories are retained by the younger rats only in a latent form but are stored and expressed long-term by older ones? Or, more specifically, what occurs during development that enhances the ability to form lasting memories?

A critical period is a developmental stage during which the nervous system is especially sensitive to environmental stimuli. If, during this period, the organism does not receive the appropriate stimuli required to develop a given function, it may be difficult or even impossible to develop that function later in life. Well-known examples of critical period-based functions are sensory functions, like vision, and language acquisition.

The study shows that there is a critical period for episodic learning and that during this period the hippocampus learns to become able to efficiently process and store memories long-term…                               https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160718111939.htm

Citation:

Infantile memory study points to critical periods in early-life learning for brain development

Date:         July 18, 2016

Source:      New York University

Summary:

A new study on infantile memory formation in rats points to the importance of critical periods in early-life learning on functional development of the brain. The research reveals the significance of learning experiences over the first two to four years of human life.

Journal Reference:

  1. Alessio Travaglia, Reto Bisaz, Eric S Sweet, Robert D Blitzer, Cristina M Alberini. Infantile amnesia reflects a developmental critical period for hippocampal learning. Nature Neuroscience, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nn.4348

Here is the press release from New York University:

Infantile Memory Study Points to Critical Periods in Early-Life Learning for Brain Development

July 18, 2016

A new study on infantile memory formation in rats points to the importance of critical periods in early-life learning on functional development of the brain. The research, conducted by scientists at New York University’s Center for Neural Science, reveals the significance of learning experiences over the first two to four years of human life; this is when memories are believed to be quickly forgotten—a phenomenon known as infantile amnesia.

“What our findings tell us is that children’s brains need to get enough and healthy activation even before they enter pre-school,” explains Cristina Alberini, a professor in NYU’s Center for Neural Science, who led the study. “Without this, the neurological system runs the risk of not properly developing learning and memory functions.”

The other authors of the study, conducted in collaboration with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, included: Alessio Travaglia, a post-doctoral researcher at NYU; Reto Bisaz, an NYU research scientist at the time of the study; Eric Sweet, a post-doctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai; and Robert Blitzer, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.

In their study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the researchers examined the mechanisms of infantile memory in rats—i.e., memories created 17 days after birth. This is the equivalent of humans under the age of three and when memories of who, what, when, and where–known as episodic memories–are rapidly forgotten. The phenomenon, referred as to “infantile or childhood amnesia,” is in fact the inability of adults to retrieve episodic memories that took place during the first two to four years of life.

In addressing this matter, Alberini and her colleagues compared rats’ infantile memory with that when they reached 24 days old—that is, when they are capable of forming and retaining long-term memories and at an age that roughly corresponds to humans at six to nine years old.

The episodic memory tested in the rodents was the memory of an aversive experience: a mild foot shock received upon entering in a new place. Adult rats, like humans, remember unpleasant or painful experiences that they had in specific places, and then avoid returning to them.

To do so, rodents were placed in a box divided into two compartments: a “safe” compartment and a “shock” compartment. During the experiment, each rat was placed in the safe compartment with its head facing away from the door. After 10 seconds, the door separating the compartments was automatically opened, allowing the rat access to the shock compartment. If the rat entered the shock compartment, it received a mild foot shock.

The first set of results was not surprising. The authors found infantile amnesia for the 17 day-old rats, which showed avoidance of the “shock” compartment right after the experience, but lost this memory very rapidly: a day later these rats quickly returned to this compartment. In contrast, the rats exposed to the shock compartment at 24 days of life learned and retained the memory for a long time and avoided this place—revealing a memory similar to that of adult rats.

However, remarkably, the younger rats, which had apparently forgotten the initial experience, subsequently showed they actually had kept a trace of the memory. When, later in life, these rats were prompted with reminders—i.e., they were presented with recollections of the context and the foot shock—they indicated having a specific memory, which was revealed by their avoidance of the specific context in which they received a shock at day 17 of life. These findings show how early life experience, although not expressed or remembered, can influence adult life behavior.

The findings raised the following question: what is occurring—neurologically—that explains why memories are retained by the younger rats only in a latent form but are stored and expressed long-term by older ones? Or, more specifically, what occurs during development that enhances the ability to form lasting memories?

To address this, the scientists focused on the brain’s hippocampus, which previous scholarship has shown is necessary for encoding new episodic memories. Here, in a series of experiments similar to the box tests, they found that if the hippocampus was inactive, the ability of younger rats to form latent memories and recall them later by reminders as they got older was diminished. They then found that mechanisms of “critical periods” are fundamental for establishing these infantile memories.

A critical period is a developmental stage during which the nervous system is especially sensitive to environmental stimuli. If, during this period, the organism does not receive the appropriate stimuli required to develop a given function, it may be difficult or even impossible to develop that function later in life. Well-known examples of critical period-based functions are sensory functions, like vision, and language acquisition.

The study shows that there is a critical period for episodic learning and that during this period the hippocampus learns to become able to efficiently process and store memories long-term.

“Early in life, while the brain cannot efficiently form long-term memories, it is ‘learning’ how to do so, making it possible to establish the abilities to memorize long-term,” explains Alberini. “However, the brain needs stimulation through learning so that it can get in the practice of memory formation—without these experiences, the ability of the neurological system to learn will be impaired.”

These studies, the researchers observe, suggest that using learning and environmental interventions during a critical period may significantly help to address learning disabilities.

The research was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01-MH074736, R01-NS072359), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Geneva-based Agalma Foundation.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Research, Arts and Science, Faculty

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: James Devitt | (212) 998-6808

Our goal as a society should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©

Resources:

The Effects of Stress on Your Body                                                                       http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/effects-of-stress-on-your-body

The Physical Effects of Long-Term Stress                                                              http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/the-physical-effects-of-long-term-stress/all/1/

Chronic Stress: The Body Connection                                                      http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=53737

Understanding Stress Symptoms, Signs, Causes, and Effects                     http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:

COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART ©                                                http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda Reviews ©                                                                         http://drwildareviews.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda ©                                                                                                                https://drwilda.com/

Stanford School of Medicine study: Brain scans may predict math ability

25 Aug

Jacob Vigdor wrote the interesting Education Next article, Solving America’s Math Problem:

American public schools have made a clear trade-off over the past few decades. With the twin goals of improving the math performance of the average student and promoting equality, it has made the curriculum more accessible. The drawback to exclusive use of this more accessible curriculum can be observed among the nation’s top-performing students, who are either less willing or less able than their predecessors or their high-achieving global peers to follow the career paths in math, science, and engineering that are the key to innovation and job creation. In the name of preparing more of the workforce to take those jobs, we have harmed the skills of those who might have created them. Although there is some evidence of a payoff from this sacrifice, in the form of marginally better performance among average students, some of the strategies used to help these students have in fact backfired…

Not all children are equally prepared to embark on a rigorous math curriculum on the first day of kindergarten, and there are no realistic policy alternatives to change this simple fact. Rather than wish differences among students away, a rational policy for the 21st century will respond to those variations, tailoring lessons to children’s needs. This strategy promises to provide the next generation of prospective scientists and engineers with the training they need to create jobs, and the next generation of workers with the skills they need to qualify for them. http://educationnext.org/solving-america%E2%80%99s-math-problem/#.UG25FCk_6rE.email

One way of looking at Vigdor’s conclusions is to ask whether high performance preschool programs and early intervention can affect student achievement?

Maggie Fox of NBC News reported in the story, Brain Scans May Predict Math Gains in Children, Study Finds:

Brain scans may be able to predict which kids are likely to improve their math skills in school and which ones are not, and they do it better than IQ or math tests, researchers reported Tuesday.
The researchers have been working with a group of kids who started getting brain scans at the age of 8, and who have followed up with tests into their mid-teens.

To their surprise, the researchers found that certain patterns of brain activity when the kids were not doing anything at all at age 8 predicted how much they would improve their math skills over the years. And these scans did so with far more accuracy than did intelligence tests, reading tests or math tests, they report in the Journal of Neuroscience.
While it’s far too soon to stick every kid into a brain scanner, the findings may eventually lead to ways to identify the children who’d benefit most from intensive math coaching, the researchers said…. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/brain-scans-may-predict-math-gains-study-finds-n412141

Citation:

• Abstract

J Neurosci. 2015 Aug 19;35(33):11743-50. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0216-15.2015.
Brain Structural Integrity and Intrinsic Functional Connectivity Forecast 6 Year Longitudinal Growth in Children’s Numerical Abilities.
Evans TM1, Kochalka J2, Ngoon TJ2, Wu SS2, Qin S2, Battista C2, Menon V3.
Author information
Abstract
Early numerical proficiency lays the foundation for acquiring quantitative skills essential in today’s technological society. Identification of cognitive and brain markers associated with long-term growth of children’s basic numerical computation abilities is therefore of utmost importance. Previous attempts to relate brain structure and function to numerical competency have focused on behavioral measures from a single time point. Thus, little is known about the brain predictors of individual differences in growth trajectories of numerical abilities. Using a longitudinal design, with multimodal imaging and machine-learning algorithms, we investigated whether brain structure and intrinsic connectivity in early childhood are predictive of 6 year outcomes in numerical abilities spanning childhood and adolescence. Gray matter volume at age 8 in distributed brain regions, including the ventrotemporal occipital cortex (VTOC), the posterior parietal cortex, and the prefrontal cortex, predicted longitudinal gains in numerical, but not reading, abilities. Remarkably, intrinsic connectivity analysis revealed that the strength of functional coupling among these regions also predicted gains in numerical abilities, providing novel evidence for a network of brain regions that works in concert to promote numerical skill acquisition. VTOC connectivity with posterior parietal, anterior temporal, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices emerged as the most extensive network predicting individual gains in numerical abilities. Crucially, behavioral measures of mathematics, IQ, working memory, and reading did not predict children’s gains in numerical abilities. Our study identifies, for the first time, functional circuits in the human brain that scaffold the development of numerical skills, and highlights potential biomarkers for identifying children at risk for learning difficulties.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:
Children show substantial individual differences in math abilities and ease of math learning. Early numerical abilities provide the foundation for future academic and professional success in an increasingly technological society. Understanding the early identification of poor math skills has therefore taken on great significance. This work provides important new insights into brain structure and connectivity measures that can predict longitudinal growth of children’s math skills over a 6 year period, and may eventually aid in the early identification of children who might benefit from targeted interventions.
Copyright © 2015 the authors 0270-6474/15/3511743-08$15.00/0.
• Received January 15, 2015.
• Revision received July 15, 2015.
• Accepted July 15, 2015.

Here is the press release from Stanford:

Brain scans better forecast math learning in kids than do skill tests, study finds
Gray matter volume and connections between several brain regions better forecast 8-year-olds’ acquisition of math skills than their performance on standard math tests.
Vinod Menon and his colleagues found that scans of brain structures indicated which childen would be the best math learners over the next six years.

Brain scans from 8-year-old children can predict gains in their mathematical ability over the next six years, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The research tracked 43 children longitudinally for six years, starting at age 8, and showed that while brain characteristics strongly indicated which children would be the best math learners over the following six years, the children’s performance on math, reading, IQ and memory tests at age 8 did not.

The study, published online Aug. 18 in The Journal of Neuroscience, moves scientists closer to their goal of helping children who struggle to acquire math skills.
“We can identify brain systems that support children’s math skill development over six years in childhood and early adolescence,” said the study’s lead author, Tanya Evans, PhD, postdoctoral scholar in psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“A long-term goal of this research is to identify children who might benefit most from targeted math intervention at an early age,” said senior author Vinod Menon, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “Mathematical skills are crucial in our increasingly technological society, and our new data show which brain features forecast future growth in math abilities.”
At the start of the study, the children received structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans. None of the kids had neurological or psychiatric disorders, and their intelligence fell in a range considered normal for their age. The scans were conducted while the children lay quietly in the scanner; the scans measured brain structure and intrinsic functional connections between brain regions, and were not tied to performance on any particular math task.

The 8-year-olds also took standardized tests (given outside the scanner) to measure IQ, as well as reading, math and working-memory skills. All of the children returned for at least one follow-up assessment of these skills before age 14, and many children had other additional follow-ups.

Surprising results

The scientists were surprised by the extent and nature of the connections between brain regions that predicted the development of the children’s math skills. Greater volume and connectivity of two areas forecast skill development: the ventro-temporal occipital cortex, which is a brain region that supports visual object perception, and the intra-parietal sulcus, which helps people compare and make judgements about numbers, such as understanding that four is more than three. The strength of these regions’ interconnections with the prefrontal cortex was also predictive. The work identifies a network of brain areas that provides a scaffold for long-term math skill development in children, Menon said.

The 8-year-olds’ initial IQ, reading, working-memory and math scores did not predict long-term learning in math. The lack of predictive ability of standard math tests taken at age 8 suggests that brain features more precisely predict children’s math learning, Evans said. The brain scans capture many different aspects of information processing, thus better forecasting which children will fall behind and which will excel, Menon added.
Just because a child is currently struggling doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will be a poor learner in the future.
“Next, we are investigating how brain connections change over time in children who show large versus small improvements in math skills, and designing new interventions to help children improve their short-term learning and long-term skill acquisition,” Menon said. Although it is still impractical to give brain scans to children on a large scale, the team’s studies provide a baseline understanding of normal development that will help experts develop and validate remediation programs for children with learning disabilities, he noted.
In the meantime, the team’s findings suggest that parents and teachers should encourage children to exercise their mental math muscles. “Just because a child is currently struggling doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will be a poor learner in the future,” Evans said.

Other Stanford co-authors were research assistants John Kochalka, Tricia Ngoon and Sarah Wu; instructor Shaozheng Qin, PhD; and postdoctoral scholar Christian Battista, PhD.

All brain scans were conducted at the Richard M. Lucas Center for Imaging at the School of Medicine.
The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (grants HD047520, HD059205 and HD080367), Stanford’s Child Health Research Institute, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, Stanford’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (NIH grant UL1RR025744) and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Menon is a member of Stanford’s Child Health Research Institute.
Information about Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, which also supported the research, is available at http://med.stanford.edu/psychiatry.html.

Because the ranks of poor children are growing in the U.S., this study portends some grave challenges not only for particular children, but this society and this country. Adequate early learning opportunities and adequate early parenting is essential for proper development in children. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/jonathan-cohns-the-two-year-window/
https://drwilda.com/2012/08/08/oregon-state-university-study-ability-to-pay-attention-in-preschool-may-predict-college-success/

Related:

Study: Gender behavior differences lead to higher grades for girls
https://drwilda.com/2013/01/07/study-gender-behavior-differences-lead-to-higher-grades-for-girls/

Girls and math phobia
https://drwilda.com/2012/01/20/girls-and-math-phobia/

University of Missouri study: Counting ability predicts future math ability of preschoolers
https://drwilda.com/2012/11/15/university-of-missouri-study-counting-ability-predicts-future-math-ability-of-preschoolers/

Is an individualized program more effective in math learning?                                                                                     https://drwilda.com/2012/10/10/is-an-individualized-program-more-effective-in-math-learning/

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University of Vermont study: Musical training linked to enhanced brain maturation

20 Jan

Mozart was a child prodigy. Most of us don’t come close to possessing his gifts. The Journal Times reported about the “Mozart effect.”

Mozart Effect

Scientific research has found some basis for the notion that music instruction stimulates general intelligence. About 10 years ago that was called the Mozart effect, the result of some research that reported that listening to a Mozart sonata increased the ability of some college students on a test of mental ability. Popular wisdom twisted that into the notion that listening to music makes you smarter, which is more magic than science. What scientists say at the moment is that music instruction will make you smarter about music, and that for music to help children they need to begin instruction really, really early….http://journaltimes.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/mozart-s-legacy-early-music-lessons-may-help-children-later/article_75110c66-bd8d-5579-92ae-222c06aa5103.html

Music consists of rhythms and mathematic like patterns which change a child’s brain and way of thinking. Research which was published in the Journal of Neuropsychology suggests that children who study music will as adults will benefit from music study. The research shows “….that the region of the brain involved in verbal memory is larger in adult musicians than in those who are not musicians.” Mental Ability Affected by Music Study http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/29/health/vital-signs-mental-abilities-more-music-yields-more-words.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/C/Children%27s%20Health&emc=eta1 Further, Rauscher’s study concludes “the research suggests that music may act as a catalyst for cognitive abilities in other disciplines, and the relationship between music and spatial-temporal reasoning is particularly compelling.” Music Affects a Child’s Cognitive Ability http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Can_Music/

Science Daily reported in Could playing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ and other music improve kids’ brains?

Children who play the violin or study piano could be learning more than just Mozart. A University of Vermont College of Medicine child psychiatry team has found that musical training might also help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

James Hudziak, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, and colleagues including Matthew Albaugh, Ph.D., and graduate student research assistant Eileen Crehan, call their study “the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development.”

The research continues Hudziak’s work with the National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development. Using its database, the team analyzed the brain scans of 232 children ages 6 to 18.

As children age, the cortex — the outer layer of the brain — changes in thickness. In previous analysis of MRI data, Hudziak and his team discovered that cortical thickening or thinning in specific areas of the brain reflected the occurrence of anxiety and depression, attention problems, aggression and behavior control issues even in healthy kids — those without a diagnosis of a disorder or mental illness. With this study, Hudziak wanted to see whether a positive activity, such as music training, would influence those indicators in the cortex.

The study supports The Vermont Family Based Approach, a model Hudziak created to establish that the entirety of a young person’s environment — parents, teachers, friends, pets, extracurricular activities — contributes to his or her psychological health. “Music is a critical component in my model,” Hudziak says…. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141223132546.htm

Citation:

Could playing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ and other music improve kids’ brains?

Date: December 23, 2014
Source: University of Vermont
Summary:
In a study called ‘the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development,’ a child psychiatry team has found that musical training might also help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety.

Cortical Thickness Maturation and Duration of Music Training: Health-Promoting Activities Shape Brain Development
James J. Hudziak, MD
,
Matthew D. Albaugh, PhD
,
Simon Ducharme, MD
,
Sherif Karama, MD, PhD
,
Margaret Spottswood, MD
,
Eileen Crehan, BA
,
Alan C. Evans, PhD
,
Kelly N. Botteron, MD
for the
Brain Development Cooperative Group
Accepted: August 28, 2014; Published Online: September 03, 2014
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2014.06.015
Article Info
• Abstract
• Full Text
• Images
• References
• Supplemental Materials
Objective
To assess the extent to which playing a musical instrument is associated with cortical thickness development among healthy youths.
Method
Participants were part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development. This study followed a longitudinal design such that participants underwent MRI scanning and behavioral testing on up to 3 separate visits, occurring at 2-year intervals. MRI, IQ, and music training data were available for 232 youths (334 scans), ranging from 6 to 18 years of age. Cortical thickness was regressed against the number of years that each youth had played a musical instrument. Next, thickness was regressed against an “Age × Years of Playing” interaction term. Age, gender, total brain volume, and scanner were controlled for in analyses. Participant ID was entered as a random effect to account for within-person dependence. False discovery rate correction was applied (p ≤ .05).
Results
There was no association between thickness and years playing a musical instrument. The “Age × Years of Playing” interaction was associated with thickness in motor, premotor, and supplementary motor cortices, as well as prefrontal and parietal cortices. Follow-up analysis revealed that music training was associated with an increased rate of thickness maturation. Results were largely unchanged when IQ and handedness were included as covariates.
Conclusion
Playing a musical instrument was associated with more rapid cortical thickness maturation within areas implicated in motor planning and coordination, visuospatial ability, and emotion and impulse regulation. However, given the quasi-experimental nature of this study, we cannot rule out the influence of confounding variables.

Here is the press release from the University of Vermont:

Musical Training Linked to Enhanced Brain Maturation
Patients who come to see child psychiatrists like Dr. Jim Hudziak at the Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families may leave with a prescription, but it often is not for a medication. As part of a model he developed called The Vermont Family Based Approach (VFBA), there is increased emphasis on incorporating wellness and health promotion strategies into the overall treatment plan. As Hudziak explains in a podcast related to the study, “One of my life goals is to see if there is a chance to move medicine away from its preoccupation with negative events and negative outcomes to argue that the opposite is also true, and that when positive things happen, positive outcomes will follow.” Thus, the goal of this model for children and families is to help them take steps not only to overcome whatever symptoms they have but to propel them towards true mental health and wellness. To get there requires attention to domains such as nutrition, parental mental health, sleep, mindfulness, and physical activity, often given short shrift in traditional approaches. Music and the arts are also highly encouraged within the VFBA. According to the Department of Education, approximately 75% of American high school students rarely or never participate in music or art training outside of the school.
While participation in music and the arts is widely viewed as positive for child development, how it affects the brain remains only partially understood. To investigate this question further and to bolster the scientific evidence behind the push for more involvement in music, Dr. Hudziak and his postdoctural associate Matt Albaugh, along with a team comprised of scientists from the University of Vermont, Montreal Neurological Institute, Harvard, and Washington University, examined brain scan data from the National Institutes of Health MRI Study of Normal Brain Behavior. Their study was published as the lead article in the November edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The subjects for the study were 232 typically developing children without psychiatric illness between the ages of 6 and 18, all of whom received structural MRI scans at up to three different time points. With these serial MRI scans the examiners were able to see how the thickness of the brain cortex changed with age. Prior studies have indicated that the cortex generally thins across adolescence as the brain undergoes a normal “pruning” process that may be related to more efficient brain functioning. A delay in this cortical thinning process, particularly in regions such as the prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortex, which are thought to be important for “executive control” functions such as inhibiting impulses and regulating attention, has recently been shown among those with clinical attention problems and ADHD.
The amount of musical training a child had was also measured to see if this variable interacted with age in its association to cortical thickness. The average time playing an instrument was about two years.
The main result of the study was that years of musical training were indeed related to age-related cortical thinning. Specifically, more musical training was associated with accelerated thinning, not only in the expected motor cortices but also in some of the very same regions implicated in those with more pronounced attention problems. “What was surprising was to see regions that play key roles in emotional regulation also modified by the amount of musical training one did.”
The authors concluded that musical training was associated with more rapid cortical maturation across many brain areas, and they hypothesized that musical training may have beneficial effects on brain development for children whether or not they suffered from attention or executive function difficulties.
Certainly, much more research is needed to support the notion of musical training as an effective treatment for diagnoses such as ADHD, but this study raises some thought-provoking possibilities. In the article, Hudziak and colleagues highlight Venezuela’s El Sistema program that has brought musical training and performance to millions of disadvantaged children both abroad and here in the U.S.. Studies have shown important improvements in drop-out rates, employment, and community involvement among participants of the program. Such efforts are critical as many families are unable to access music lessons due to their cost. Dr. Hudziak, who has done research on the genetic influence of various traits and abilities, notes that our culture seems to have it backwards in promoting certain activities only for children who seem born to excel at them. He questions why “only the great athletes compete, only the great musicians play, and only the great singers sing,” especially as children age. He and his team have worked to improve local access to musical training through research studies and mentorship programs. The need is still high, however, and is now underscored by the increasing data linking wellness activities to measurable changes in brain development.
Reference
Hudziak JJ, Albaugh MD, et al. Cortical thickness maturation and duration of music training: Health-promoting activities shape brain development. JAACAP. 2014;11:1153-1161. http://blog.uvm.edu/drettew/2014/12/02/musical-training-linked-to-enhanced-brain-maturation/

The question is not whether children should be exposed to and study music. Children should be exposed to a wide range of the arts. The issue is what content is appropriate. A Book Rags Student Essays lays out the issues with hip hop music and its sometimes negative effects on the culture. Negative Effects of Hip Hop http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2005/9/21/202351/048/#gsc.tab=0 The late C. Delores Tucker and Tipper Gore were ridiculed when they pointed out the negative effects of glorifying violence and demeaning women by calling them “bitches and hos.” Lest people think that hip hop music and hip hop culture only affect children of color, think again. NPR had a segment entitled “why white kids love hip hop.” Why White Kids Love Hip Hop http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4773208 The negative life style choices and clothing glorified by many “gangsta” artists are affecting mainstream culture.

There is no one right type of music, good music comes in all genres. There is music that feeds the soul and music that destroys the soul, psyche, and culture. There is a positive hip hop movement. Essence, a magazine targeted at Black woman and the Berklee College of Music are joining forces Positive Hip Hop:

Berklee College of Music, in an effort to influence the direction of rap, is joining Essence magazine’s Take Back the Music campaign, meant in part to encourage young artists who offer alternatives to the violent and sex-laden lyrics found in some popular hip-hop music….http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2006/01/30/aiming_for_an_alternative_hip_hop/

Amazon has a positive hip hop guide. Just as parents want to provide a nutritious menu of food, they need to make sure that young minds are properly nourished as well.

If your child loves Mozart, that doesn’t make them a sissy. Your child can love hip hop without that making them a thug.

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