Tag Archives: Brain

University of Basel study: Callous and unemotional traits show in brain structure of boys only, study finds

14 Jan

Gary Wilson wrote a thoughtful article about some of the learning challenges faced by boys. Boys Barriers to Learning which was incorporated into his books https://www.garywilsonraisingboysachievement.com/ He lists several barriers to learning in this article:

1. Early years
a. Language development problems
b. Listening skills development
2. Writing skills and learning outcomes
A significant barrier to many boys’ learning, that begins at quite an early age and often never leaves them, is the perception that most writing that they are expected to do is largely irrelevant and unimportant….
3. Gender bias
Gender bias in everything from resources to teacher expectations has the potential to present further barriers to boys’ learning. None more so than the gender bias evident in the ways in which we talk to boys and talk to girls. We need to be ever mindful of the frequency, the nature and the quality of our interactions with boys and our interactions with girls in the classroom….A potential mismatch of teaching and learning styles to boys’ preferred ways of working continues to be a barrier for many boys….
4. Reflection and evaluation
The process of reflection is a weakness in many boys, presenting them with perhaps one of the biggest barriers of all. The inability of many boys to, for example, write evaluations, effectively stems from this weakness….
5. Self-esteem issues
Low self-esteem is clearly a very significant barrier to many boys’ achievement in school. If we were to think of the perfect time to de-motivate boys, when would that be? Some might say in the early years of education when many get their first unwelcome and never forgotten taste of failure might believe in the system… and themselves, for a while, but not for long….
6. Peer pressure
Peer pressure, or the anti-swot culture, is clearly a major barrier to many boys’ achievement. Those lucky enough to avoid it tend to be good academically, but also good at sport. This gives them a licence to work hard as they can also be ‘one of the lads’. …To me one of the most significant elements of peer pressure for boys is the impact it has on the more affective domains of the curriculum, namely expressive, creative and performing arts. It takes a lot of courage for a boy to turn up for the first day at high school carrying a violin case….
7. Talk to them!
There are many barriers to boys’ learning (I’m currently saying 31, but I’m still working on it!) and an ever-increasing multitude of strategies that we can use to address them. I firmly believe that a close examination of a school’s own circumstances is the only way to progress through this maze and that the main starting point has to be with the boys themselves. They do know all the issues around their poor levels of achievement. Talk to them first. I also believe that one of the most important strategies is to let them know you’re ‘on their case’, talking to them provides this added bonus….

If your boy has achievement problems, Wilson emphasizes that there is no one answer to address the problems. There are issues that will be specific to each child.

Science Daily reported in Callous and unemotional traits show in brain structure of boys only, study finds:

Callous-unemotional traits have been linked to deficits in development of the conscience and of empathy. Children and adolescents react less to negative stimuli; they often prefer risky activities and show less caution or fear. In recent years, researchers and doctors have given these personality traits increased attention, since they have been associated with the development of more serious and persistent antisocial behavior.
However, until now, most research in this area has focused on studying callous-unemotional traits in populations with a psychiatric diagnosis, especially conduct disorder. This meant that it was unclear whether associations between callous-unemotional traits and brain structure were only present in clinical populations with increased aggression, or whether the antisocial behavior and aggression explained the brain differences.
Using magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers were able to take a closer look at the brain development of typically-developing teenagers to find out whether callous-unemotional traits are linked to differences in brain structure. The researchers were particularly interested to find out if the relationship between callous-unemotional traits and brain structure differs between boys and girls. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171227100037.htm

Citation:

Callous and unemotional traits show in brain structure of boys only, study finds
Date: December 27, 2017
Source: University of Basel
Summary:
allous-unemotional traits are linked to differences in brain structure in boys, but not girls. This report is based on a study on brain development in 189 adolescents.

Journal Reference:
1. Nora Maria Raschle, Willeke Martine Menks, Lynn Valérie Fehlbaum, Martin Steppan, Areti Smaragdi, Karen Gonzalez-Madruga, Jack Rogers, Roberta Clanton, Gregor Kohls, Anne Martinelli, Anka Bernhard, Kerstin Konrad, Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann, Christine M. Freitag, Graeme Fairchild, Stephane A. De Brito, Christina Stadler. Callous-unemotional traits and brain structure: Sex-specific effects in anterior insula of typically-developing youths. NeuroImage: Clinical, 2018; 17: 856 DOI: 10.1016/j.nicl.2017.12.015

Here is the press release from University of Basel:

27 December 2017
Callous and Unemotional Traits Show in Brain Structure of Boys Only
Callous-unemotional traits are linked to differences in brain structure in boys, but not girls. This reports a European research team led by the University of Basel and University of Basel Psychiatric Hospital in a study on brain development in 189 adolescents. The journal Neuroimage: Clinical has published the results.
Callous-unemotional traits have been linked to deficits in development of the conscience and of empathy. Children and adolescents react less to negative stimuli; they often prefer risky activities and show less caution or fear. In recent years, researchers and doctors have given these personality traits increased attention, since they have been associated with the development of more serious and persistent antisocial behavior.
However, until now, most research in this area has focused on studying callous-unemotional traits in populations with a psychiatric diagnosis, especially conduct disorder. This meant that it was unclear whether associations between callous-unemotional traits and brain structure were only present in clinical populations with increased aggression, or whether the antisocial behavior and aggression explained the brain differences.
Related Links
• FemNat-CD
Using magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers were able to take a closer look at the brain development of typically-developing teenagers to find out whether callous-unemotional traits are linked to differences in brain structure. The researchers were particularly interested to find out if the relationship between callous-unemotional traits and brain structure differs between boys and girls.
Only boys show differences in brain structure
The findings show that in typically-developing boys, the volume of the anterior insula – a brain region implicated in recognizing emotions in others and empathy – is larger in those with higher levels of callous-unemotional traits. This variation in brain structure was only seen in boys, but not in girls with the same personality traits.
“Our findings demonstrate that callous-unemotional traits are related to differences in brain structure in typically-developing boys without a clinical diagnosis,” explains lead author Nora Maria Raschle from the University and the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland. “In a next step, we want to find out what kind of trigger leads some of these children to develop mental health problems later in life while others never develop problems.”
This study is part of the FemNAT-CD project, a large Europe-wide research project aiming at investigating neurobiology and treatment of adolescent female conduct disorder.
Original article
Nora Maria Raschle et al. Callous-unemotional traits and brain structure: Sex-specific effects in anterior insula of typically-developing youths
Neuro Image: Clinical (2018) | doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2017.12.015
________________________________________
Further Information
Dr. Nora Maria Raschle, University of Basel, Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel, phone: +41 61 265 89 75, email: nora.raschle@upkbs.ch

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 because too many social engineers are advocating that there is no difference between cognitive and behavior of the genders. 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/

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/

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https://drwilda.com/

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Indiana University study: Caregivers whose eyes wander during playtime may raise children with shorter attention spans

29 Apr

Katherine Doyle of Reuters reported in the article, Parenting style linked to kids’ Internet addiction:

Recollections of strict, unaffectionate parents were more common among young adults with an unhealthy attachment to Internet use, compared to their peers, in a new Greek study.
Young adults who recall their parents being tough or demanding without showing affection tend to be sad or to have trouble making friends, and those personality traits raise their risk of Internet addiction, the researchers say.
“In short, good parenting, including parental warmth and affection, that is caring and protective parents, has been associated with lower risk for Internet addiction,” said lead author Argyroula E. Kalaitzaki of the Technological Education Institute (TEI) of Crete in Heraklion, “whereas bad parenting, including parental control and intrusion, that is authoritarian and neglectful parents, has been associated with higher risk for addiction.”
Research on Internet addiction is still relatively new, and there are no actual criteria for diagnosing the disorder, though there are many inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities in the U.S., Australia and Asia….
Kalaitzaki’s team predicted that the way kids bonded with their parents would predict aspects of their personality as young adults, which in turn would predict their likelihood of Internet addiction….
http://ca.news.yahoo.com/parenting-style-linked-kids-39-internet-addiction-222041126.html

Citation:

Argyroula Kalaitzaki
Technological Educational Institute of Crete
Article
The impact of early parenting bonding on young adults’ Internet addiction, through the mediation effects of negative relating to others and sadness.
Argyroula Kalaitzaki
Addictive Behaviors 01/2014; 39(3):733–736.

ABSTRACT The aim of the present study is the investigation of the potential role of negative relating to others, perceived loneliness, sadness, and anxiety, as mediators of the association between early parental bonding and adult Internet Addiction (IA). The factorial structure of the Internet Addiction Test (IAT) and the prevalence rates of it in a Greek samplewill also be investigated. A total of 774 participants were recruited froma Technological Education Institute (mean age = 20.2, SD = 2.8) and from high school technical schools (mean age = 19.9, SD = 7.4). The IATwas used tomeasure the degree of problematic Internet use behaviors; the Parental Bonding Instrument was used to assess one’s recalled parenting experiences during the first 16 years of life; the shortened Person’s Relating to Others Questionnaire was used to assess one’s negative (i.e. maladaptive) relating to others (NRO). Both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses confirmed the three-factor structure of the IAT. Only 1.0% of the sample was severely addicted to the Internet. The mediated effects of only the NRO and sadness were confirmed.
Negative relating to others was found to fully mediate the effect of both the father’s optimal parenting
and affectionless control on IA, whereas sadness was found to fully mediate the effect of the mother’s optimal parenting on IA. Overall, the results suggest that parenting style has an indirect impact on IA, through the mediating role of negative relating to others or sadness in later life. Both family-based and individual-based prevention and intervention efforts may reduce the incidence of IA.
http://www.researchgate.net/publication/259586504_The_impact_of_early_parenting_bonding_on_young

An Indiana University study expands on the importance of parental attention.

Science Daily reported in Infant attention span suffers when parents’ eyes wander during playtime:

Caregivers whose eyes wander during playtime — due to distractions such as smartphones or other technology, for example — may raise children with shorter attention spans, according to a new study by psychologists at Indiana University.

The work, which appears online today in the journal Current Biology, is the first to show a direct connection between how long a caregiver looks at an object and how long an infant’s attention remains focused on that same object.

“The ability of children to sustain attention is known as a strong indicator for later success in areas such as language acquisition, problem-solving and other key cognitive development milestones,” said Chen Yu, who led the study. “Caregivers who appear distracted or whose eyes wander a lot while their children play appear to negatively impact infants’ burgeoning attention spans during a key stage of development….”                                                                                         https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160428131954.htm

See, Parent’s Eye Contact During Playtime Can Extend Baby’s Attention Span: Simple Way To Improve Cognitive Development In Infancy        http://www.medicaldaily.com/eye-contact-attention-span-cognitive-development-383980

Citation:

Infant attention span suffers when parents’ eyes wander during playtime

Eye-tracking study first to suggest connection between caregiver focus and key cognitive development indicator in infants

Date:             April 28, 2016

Source:         Indiana University

Summary:

Caregivers whose eyes wander during playtime — due to distractions such as smartphones or other technology, for example — may raise children with shorter attention spans, according to a new study.

Journal Reference:

  1. Chen Yu, Linda B. Smith. The Social Origins of Sustained Attention in One-Year-Old Human Infants. Current Biology, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.03.026

Here is the press release from Indiana University:

IU study finds infant attention span suffers when parents’ eyes wander during playtime

Eye-tracking study first to suggest connection between caregiver focus and key cognitive development indicator in infants

  • April 28, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Caregivers whose eyes wander during playtime — due to distractions such as smartphones or other technology, for example — may raise children with shorter attention spans, according to a new study by psychologists at Indiana University.

The work, which appears online today in the journal Current Biology, is the first to show a direct connection between how long a caregiver looks at an object and how long an infant’s attention remains focused on that same object.

“The ability of children to sustain attention is known as a strong indicator for later success in areas such as language acquisition, problem-solving and other key cognitive development milestones,” said Chen Yu, who led the study. “Caregivers who seem distracted or whose eyes wander a lot while their children play appear to negatively impact infants’ burgeoning attention spans during a key stage of development.”

Yu is a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Linda Smith, IU Distinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, is co-author on the paper.

“Historically, psychologists regarded attention as an property of individual development,” Smith said. “Our study is one of the first to consider attention as impacted by social interaction. It really appears to be an activity performed by two social partners since our study shows one individual’s attention significantly influence another’s.”

Thanks to head-mounted cameras worn by both caregivers and infants in the study, IU scientists got a first-person point of view on parents and children playing together in an environment that closely resembled a typical play session at home or day care. The technology also allowed the parents and children to play with physical toys. A typical eye-tracking study of children would involve manipulating objects on a screen.

Caregivers were given no instructions before engaging with children to ensure the psychologists got an unfiltered view of their interactions.

Generally, Yu said, caregivers fell into two major groups: those who let the infants direct the course of their play and those who attempted to forcefully guide the infants’ interest toward specific toys.

“A lot of the parents were really trying too hard,” he said. “They were trying to show off their parenting skills, holding out toys for their kids and naming the objects. But when you watch the camera footage, you can actually see the children’s eyes wandering to the ceilings or over their parents’ shoulders — they’re not paying attention at all.”

The caregivers who were most successful at sustaining the children’s attention were those who “let the child lead.” These caregivers waited until they saw the children express interest in a toy and then jumped in to expand that interest by naming the object and encouraging play.

“The responsive parents were sensitive to their children’s interests and then supported their attention,” Yu said. “We found they didn’t even really need to try to redirect where the children were looking.”

The gains in attention for children in this group were significant. In cases where infants and caregivers paid attention to the same object for over 3.6 seconds, the infant’s attention lingered 2.3 seconds longer on average on the same object even after the caregiver’s gaze turned away. This extra time works out to nearly four times longer compared to infants whose caregivers’ attention strayed relatively quickly.

The impact of a few seconds here and there may seem small. But when they are magnified over a play session — and those play sessions occur over months of daily interaction during a critical stage in mental development — the outcomes grow significantly, Yu said. A number of other studies tracking the influence of sustained attention in children from ages 1 through grade school show consistently that longer attention spans at an early age are a strong predictor of later achievement.

“Showing that what a parent pays attention to minute by minute and second by second actually influences what a child is paying attention to may seem intuitive, but social influences on attention are potentially very important and ignored by most scientists,” said Sam Wass, a research scientist at the University of Cambridge whose commentary on the study appears in the same journal. “Chen Yu and Linda Smith’s work in this area in recent years has been hugely influential.”

The shortest attention spans in the study were observed in a third group, in which caregivers displayed extremely low engagement with children while playing. These distracted caregivers tended to sit back and not play along, or simply look elsewhere during the exercise.

“When you’ve got a someone who isn’t responsive to a child’s behavior,” Yu said, “it could be a real red flag for future problems.”

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Technology of all types and the effect technology has on personal relationships in increasingly the subject of research. Moi has written about the effect of television on the brains of young children. In Television cannot substitute for quality childcare and parental interaction. Your toddler not only needs food for their body and appropriate physical activity, but you need to nourish their mind and spirit as well. There are several good articles which explain why you do not want your toddler parked in front of a television several hours each day. Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE has a very good explanation of how television can be used as a resource by distinguishing between television watching and targeting viewing of specific programs designed to enhance learning. In Should Babies and Toddlers Watch Television? http://pregnancy.about.com/od/yourbaby/a/babiesandtv.htm Elizabeth Pantley commented about the effects of young children and television. MSNBC was reporting about toddlers and television in 2004. In the MSNBC report, Watching TV May Hurt Toddlers’ Attention Spans the harmful effects of television viewing on children were discussed. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4664749#.UtNlDbB3tdg Robin Yapp of the Daily Mail reported in the article, Children who watch too much TV may have ‘damaged brain structures. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2537240/Children-watch-TV-damaged-brain-structures.html#ixzz2qFKiwot6

Jon Hamilton of NPR reported in the story, Childhood Maltreatment Can Leave Scars In The Brain:

Maltreatment during childhood can lead to long-term changes in brain circuits that process fear, researchers say. This could help explain why children who suffer abuse are much more likely than others to develop problems like anxiety and depression later on.

Brain scans of teenagers revealed weaker connections between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus in both boys and girls who had been maltreated as children, a team from the University of Wisconsin reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Girls who had been maltreated also had relatively weak connections between the prefrontal cortex the amygdala.

Those weaker connections “actually mediated or led to the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms by late adolescence,” says Ryan Herringa, a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin and one of the study’s authors….
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/11/04/242945454/childhood-maltreatment-can-leave-scars-in-the-brain?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=share&utm_campaign=

Helping parents and caretakers to respond appropriately to children is crucial to stopping the cycle of abuse.

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Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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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/

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/

Dr. Wilda ©
https://drwilda.com/

University of California Davis study: Curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning

6 Oct

MedicineNet.com defines working memory in the article, Definition of Working memory:

Working memory is a system for temporarily storing and managing the information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Working memory is involved in the selection, initiation, and termination of information-processing functions such as encoding, storing, and retrieving data.
One test of working memory is memory span, the number of items, usually words or numbers, that a person can hold onto and recall. In a typical test of memory span, an examiner reads a list of random numbers aloud at about the rate of one number per second. At the end of a sequence, the person being tested is asked to recall the items in order. The average memory span for normal adults is 7 items. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7143

The University of Pennsylvania researchers studied working memory in a longitudinal study. See, Penn and CHOP Researchers Track Working Memory From Childhood Through Adolescence http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-and-chop-researchers-track-working-memory-childhood-through-adolescence

Science Daily reported in the article, How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning:

The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research publishing online October 2 in the Cell Press journal Neuron provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.
“Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation — curiosity — affects memory. These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings,” says lead author Dr. Matthias Gruber, of University of California at Davis.
For the study, participants rated their curiosity to learn the answers to a series of trivia questions. When they were later presented with a selected trivia question, there was a 14 second delay before the answer was provided, during which time the participants were shown a picture of a neutral, unrelated face. Afterwards, participants performed a surprise recognition memory test for the faces that were presented, followed by a memory test for the answers to the trivia questions. During certain parts of the study, participants had their brains scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The study revealed three major findings. First, as expected, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information. More surprising, however, was that once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information (face recognition) that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about. People were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay. “Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it,” explains Dr. Gruber.
Second, the investigators found that when curiosity is stimulated, there is increased activity in the brain circuit related to reward. “We showed that intrinsic motivation actually recruits the very same brain areas that are heavily involved in tangible, extrinsic motivation,” says Dr. Gruber. This reward circuit relies on dopamine, a chemical messenger that relays messages between neurons.
Third, the team discovered that when curiosity motivated learning, there was increased activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that is important for forming new memories, as well as increased interactions between the hippocampus and the reward circuit. “So curiosity recruits the reward system, and interactions between the reward system and the hippocampus seem to put the brain in a state in which you are more likely to learn and retain information, even if that information is not of particular interest or importance,” explains principal investigator Dr. Charan Ranganath, also of UC Davis.
The findings could have implications for medicine and beyond. For example, the brain circuits that rely on dopamine tend to decline in function as people get older, or sooner in people with neurological conditions. Understanding the relationship between motivation and memory could therefore stimulate new efforts to improve memory in the healthy elderly and to develop new approaches for treating patients with disorders that affect memory. And in the classroom or workplace, learning what might be considered boring material could be enhanced if teachers or managers are able to harness the power of students’ and workers’ curiosity about something they are naturally motivated to learn.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141002123631.htm

Citation:

How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning
Date: October 2, 2014
Source: Cell Press
Summary:
The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.
States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit
Matthias J. Gruber ,
Bernard D. Gelman,
Charan Ranganath
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2014.08.060
To view the full text, please login as a subscribed user or purchase a subscription. Click here to view the full text on ScienceDirect.
Highlights
• •People are better at learning information that they are curious about
• •Memory for incidental material presented during curious states was also enhanced
• •Curiosity associated with anticipatory activity in nucleus accumbens and midbrain
• •Memory benefits for incidental material depend on midbrain-hippocampus involvement
Summary
People find it easier to learn about topics that interest them, but little is known about the mechanisms by which intrinsic motivational states affect learning. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how curiosity (intrinsic motivation to learn) influences memory. In both immediate and one-day-delayed memory tests, participants showed improved memory for information that they were curious about and for incidental material learned during states of high curiosity. Functional magnetic resonance imaging results revealed that activity in the midbrain and the nucleus accumbens was enhanced during
states of high curiosity. Importantly, individual variability in curiosity-driven memory benefits for incidental material was supported by anticipatory activity in the midbrain and hippocampus and by functional connectivity between these regions. These findings suggest a link between the mechanisms supporting extrinsic reward motivation and intrinsic curiosity and highlight the importance of stimulating curiosity to create more effective learning experiences.

Here is the press release from Cell Press Journal:

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
2-Oct-2014
Contact: Mary Beth O’Leary
moleary@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
@CellPressNews
How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning
The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research publishing online October 2 in the Cell Press journal Neuron provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.
“Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation—curiosity—affects memory. These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings,” says lead author Dr. Matthias Gruber, of University of California at Davis.
For the study, participants rated their curiosity to learn the answers to a series of trivia questions. When they were later presented with a selected trivia question, there was a 14 second delay before the answer was provided, during which time the participants were shown a picture of a neutral, unrelated face. Afterwards, participants performed a surprise recognition memory test for the faces that were presented, followed by a memory test for the answers to the trivia questions. During certain parts of the study, participants had their brains scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The study revealed three major findings. First, as expected, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information. More surprising, however, was that once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information (face recognition) that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about. People were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay. “Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it,” explains Dr. Gruber.
Second, the investigators found that when curiosity is stimulated, there is increased activity in the brain circuit related to reward. “We showed that intrinsic motivation actually recruits the very same brain areas that are heavily involved in tangible, extrinsic motivation,” says Dr. Gruber. This reward circuit relies on dopamine, a chemical messenger that relays messages between neurons.
Third, the team discovered that when curiosity motivated learning, there was increased activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that is important for forming new memories, as well as increased interactions between the hippocampus and the reward circuit. “So curiosity recruits the reward system, and interactions between the reward system and the hippocampus seem to put the brain in a state in which you are more likely to learn and retain information, even if that information is not of particular interest or importance,” explains principal investigator Dr. Charan Ranganath, also of UC Davis.
The findings could have implications for medicine and beyond. For example, the brain circuits that rely on dopamine tend to decline in function as people get older, or sooner in people with neurological conditions. Understanding the relationship between motivation and memory could therefore stimulate new efforts to improve memory in the healthy elderly and to develop new approaches for treating patients with disorders that affect memory. And in the classroom or workplace, learning what might be considered boring material could be enhanced if teachers or managers are able to harness the power of students’ and workers’ curiosity about something they are naturally motivated to learn.
###
Neuron, Gruber et al.: “States of curiosity modulate hippocampus-dependent learning via the dopaminergic circuit.”

Parents can help foster curious kids.

Justin Coulson writes in the article, Raising smart, curious children:

Parents can do several things that will foster curiosity and a love of learning in their children, and help them grow up intellectually stimulated and successful.
• Model a love of learning. Be seen reading, finding answers, and discovering things yourself. Your children will watch and learn from you.
• Embrace the motto “we try new things”. Whether it is a new meal, a new sport, a new holiday destination, or a new way of cleaning the house, let your children know that you want to try new things and discover things you previously did not know much about.
• Teach your children to find answers. When your children ask you a question, rather than answering them directly encourage them to find out for themselves. Point them to references, the Internet, or other useful sources.
• Ask questions. If your child is curious about something, find out why. Encourage discussion. Find out what s/he knows already. When your child makes a statement (about anything) you can ask “why” and have an interesting conversation. Your demonstration of curiosity can be a terrific example to your children
• Be willing to talk. It is often easy for a parent to say “I’ll tell you later”, or “Not now, I’m busy.” Such responses will dampen the enthusiasm and curiosity a child has for a subject. Be being available, your child will be able to pursue a love of learning and all you have to do is facilitate it.
• Provide tools for learning by visiting the library, buying books from the shops, and having access to the Internet available for appropriate learning activities.
• Eliminate the use of rewards for learning. Research shows that the more we reward someone for a task, the less interested they become in the task. When rewards are offered, people generally become more interested in the reward than in the process required to obtain the reward. Instead, encourage curiosity for its own sake….. http://www.kidspot.com.au/schoolzone/Study-tips-Raising-smart-curious-children+4165+304+article.htm

Education is a partnership and parents must help educators foster curiosity in children.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
Albert Einstein

Resources:

How Can Teachers Foster Curiosity? http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/06/04/33shonstrom.h33.html

How to Stimulate Curiosity http://ideas.time.com/2013/04/15/how-to-stimulate-curiosity/

Six ways to build greater curiosity in students http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/six-ways-to-build-greater-curiosity-in-students

How to Ignite Intellectual Curiosity in Students http://www.edutopia.org/blog/igniting-student-curiousity-inquiry-method

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University of Texas Center for Brain Health study: The brains of risk-taking teens are different

17 Aug

We live in a society with few personal controls and even fewer people recognize boundaries which should govern their behavior and how they treat others. Many parents want tips about how to talk with their kids about risky behaviors and whether they should spy on their children.
Perhaps the best advice comes from Carleton Kendrick in the Family Education article, Spying on Kids

Staying connected
So how do you make sure your teens are on the straight and narrow? You can’t. And don’t think you can forbid them to experiment with risky behavior. That’s what they’re good at during this stage, along with testing your limits. You can help them stay healthy, safe, and secure by doing the following:
• Keep communicating with your teens, even if they don’t seem to be listening. Talk about topics that interest them.
• Respect and ask their opinions.
• Give them privacy. That doesn’t mean you can’t knock on their door when you want to talk.
• Set limits on their behavior based on your values and principles. They will grudgingly respect you for this.
• Continually tell them and show them you believe in who they are rather than what they accomplish.
• Seek professional help if your teen’s abnormal behaviors last more than three weeks.
A 1997 landmark adolescent health study, which interviewed over 12,000 teenagers, concluded that the single greatest protection against high-risk teenage behavior, like substance abuse and suicide, is a strong emotional connection to a parent. Tough as it may be, you should always try to connect with them. And leave the spying to James Bond. It will only drive away the children you wish to bring closer.

In truth, a close relationship with your child will probably be more effective than spying. Put down that Blackberry, iPhone, and Droid and try connecting with your child. You should not only know who your children’s friends are, but you should know the parents of your children’s friends. Many parents have the house where all the kids hang out because they want to know what is going on with their kids. Often parents volunteer to chauffeur kids because that gives them the opportunity to listen to what kids are talking about. It is important to know the values of the families of your kid’s friends. Do they furnish liquor to underage kids, for example? How do they feel about teen sex and is their house the place where kids meet for sex? Lisa Frederiksen has written the excellent article, 10 Tips for Talking to Teens About Sex, Drugs & Alcohol http://www.drugfree.org/10-tips-for-talking-to-teens-about-sex-drugs-alcohol/ which was posted at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids http://www.drugfree.org/
According to a Center for Brain Health study, some teens are more prone to risky behavior than others because of differences in their brains.

Science Digest reported in the article, Brain imaging shows brain differences in risk-taking teens:

According to the CDC, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for adolescents. Compared to the two leading causes of death for all Americans, heart disease and cancer, a pattern of questionable decision-making in dire situations comes to light in teen mortality. New research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas investigating brain differences associated with risk-taking teens found that connections between certain brain regions are amplified in teens more prone to risk.
“Our brains have an emotional-regulation network that exists to govern emotions and influence decision-making,” explained the study’s lead author, Sam Dewitt. “Antisocial or risk-seeking behavior may be associated with an imbalance in this network.”
The study, published June 30 in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, looked at 36 adolescents ages 12-17; eighteen risk-taking teens were age- and sex-matched to a group of 18 non-risk-taking teens. Participants were screened for risk-taking behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, and physical violence and underwent functional MRI (fMRI) scans to examine communication between brain regions associated with the emotional-regulation network. Interestingly, the risk-taking group showed significantly lower income compared to the non-risk taking group.
“Most fMRI scans used to be done in conjunction with a particular visual task. In the past several years, however, it has been shown that performing an fMRI scan of the brain during a ‘mind-wandering’ state is just as valuable,”said Sina Aslan, Ph.D., President of Advance MRI and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.”In this case, brain regions associated with emotion and reward centers show increased connection even when they are not explicitly engaged.”
The study, conducted by Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., Director of Cognitive Neuroscience Research of Addictive Behaviors at the Center for BrainHealth and her colleagues, shows that risk-taking teens exhibit hyperconnectivity between the amygdala, a center responsible for emotional reactivity, and specific areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with emotion regulation and critical thinking skills. The researchers also found increased activity between areas of the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, a center for reward sensitivity that is often implicated in addiction research….
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140815102326.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29&utm_content=FaceBook

Citation:

Brain imaging shows brain differences in risk-taking teens
Date: August 15, 2014

Source: Center for BrainHealth
Summary:
Brain differences associated with risk-taking teens have been investigated by researchers who found that connections between certain brain regions are amplified in teens more prone to risk. “Our brains have an emotional-regulation network that exists to govern emotions and influence decision-making,” explained the study’s lead author. “Antisocial or risk-seeking behavior may be associated with an imbalance in this network.”
Here is the blog post from the Center for Brain Health:
Study: Brain imaging shows brain differences in risk-taking teens
By: The Center for BrainHealth
Thursday, August 14, 2014
According to the CDC, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for adolescents. Compared to the two leading causes of death for all Americans, heart disease and cancer, a pattern of questionable decision-making in dire situations comes to light in teen mortality. New research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas investigating brain differences associated with risk-taking teens found that connections between certain brain regions are amplified in teens more prone to risk.
“Our brains have an emotional-regulation network that exists to govern emotions and influence decision-making,” explained the study’s lead author, Sam Dewitt. “Antisocial or risk-seeking behavior may be associated with an imbalance in this network.”
The study, published June 30 in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, looked at 36 adolescents ages 12-17; eighteen risk-taking teens were age- and sex-matched to a group of 18 non-risk-taking teens. Participants were screened for risk-taking behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, and physical violence and underwent functional MRI (fMRI) scans to examine communication between brain regions associated with the emotional-regulation network. Interestingly, the risk-taking group showed significantly lower income compared to the non-risk taking group.
“Most fMRI scans used to be done in conjunction with a particular visual task. In the past several years, however, it has been shown that performing an fMRI scan of the brain during a ‘mind-wandering’ state is just as valuable,”said Sina Aslan, Ph.D., President of Advance MRI and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.“In this case, brain regions associated with emotion and reward centers show increased connection even when they are not explicitly engaged.”
The study, conducted by Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., Director of Cognitive Neuroscience Research of Addictive Behaviors at the Center for BrainHealth and her colleagues, shows that risk-taking teens exhibit hyperconnectivity between the amygdala, a center responsible for emotional reactivity, and specific areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with emotion regulation and critical thinking skills. The researchers also found increased activity between areas of the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, a center for reward sensitivity that is often implicated in addiction research.
“Our findings are crucial in that they help identify potential brain biomarkers that, when taken into context with behavioral differences, may help identify which adolescents are at risk for dangerous and pathological behaviors in the future,” Dewitt explained.
He also points out that even though the risk-taking group did partake in risky behavior, none met clinical criteria for behavioral or substance use disorders.
By identifying these factors early on, the research team hopes to have a better chance of providing effective cognitive strategies to help risk-seeking adolescents regulate their emotions and avoid risk-taking behavior and substance abuse. http://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/blog_page/study-brain-imaging-shows-brain-differences-in-risk-taking-teens

So, in answer to the question should you spy on your Kids? Depends on the child. Some children are more susceptible to peer pressure and impulsive behavior than others. They will require more and possibly more intrusive direction. Others really are free range children and have the resources and judgment to make good decisions in a variety of circumstances. Even within a family there will be different needs and abilities. The difficulty for parents is to make the appropriate judgments and still give each child the feeling that they have been treated fairly. Still, for some kids, it is not out of line for parents to be snoops, they just might save the child and themselves a lot of heartache.

Resources:

Sexting Information: What every parent should know about sexting.
http://www.noslang.com/sexting.php

Social Networking and Internet Safety Information for Parents: Sexting
http://internet-safety.yoursphere.com/sexting/

Teen Sexting Tips
http://www.safeteens.com/teen-sexting-tips/

Related:

New study about ‘sexting’ and teens
https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/new-study-about-sexting-and-teens/

Sexting’ during school hours
https://drwilda.com/2012/08/05/sexting-during-school-hours/

Children and swearing
https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/children-and-swearing/

Does what is worn in school matter?
https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/does-what-is-worn-in-school-matter/

Teen dating violence on the rise
https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/teen-dating-violence-on-the-rise/

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Johns Hopkins study: Education mitigates the effects of brain injury

24 Apr

Education Portal defines illiteracy in the article, Illiteracy: The Downfall of American Society.

Most people think of literacy as a simple question of being able to read. But while a young child who can work her way through a basic picture book is considered to have age-appropriate literacy levels, an adult who can only read at the most fundamental level is still functionally illiterate.
The world requires that adults not only be able to read and understand basic texts, but also be able to function in the workplace, pay bills, understand legal and financial documents and navigate technology – not to mention the advanced reading comprehension skills required to pursue postsecondary education and the opportunities that come with it.
As a result, when we talk about the effects of illiteracy on society, we’re talking primarily about what happens when you have a large number of adults whose literacy skills are too low to perform normal, day-to-day tasks. However, it is worth keeping in mind that childhood illiteracy is, of course, directly correlated to adult illiteracy. http://education-portal.com/articles/Illiteracy_The_Downfall_of_American_Society.html

The key concept is the individual cannot adequately function in the society in which they live. That means that tasks necessary to provide a satisfactory life are difficult because they cannot read and/or comprehend what they read.
Research is taking the concept of literacy a step farther with the concept of cognitive reserve.

Jon Hamilton of NPR reported in the article, Education May Help Insulate The Brain Against Traumatic Injury:

A little education goes a long way toward ensuring you’ll recover from a serious traumatic brain injury. In fact, people with lots of education are seven times more likely than high school dropouts to have no measurable disability a year later.
“It’s a very dramatic difference,” says Eric Schneider, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins and the lead author of a new study. The finding suggests that people with more education have brains that are better able to “find ways around the damage” caused by an injury, he says.
The study looked at the medical records of 769 adults who suffered traumatic brain injuries serious enough to require an inpatient hospital stay and rehabilitation. A year after the injury, just 10 percent of people who didn’t finish high school had no disability, compared with 39 percent of people with enough years of education to have received a college degree. People with advanced degrees did even better.
One reason for the difference may be something known as “cognitive reserve” in the brain, Schneider says. The concept is a bit like physical fitness, he says, which can help a person recover from a physical injury. Similarly, a person with a lot of cognitive reserve may be better equipped to recover from a brain injury…
For several decades, studies have shown that people with more education, and presumably more cognitive reserve, are less likely to develop the memory and thinking problems of Alzheimer’s disease. The new study suggests the benefits of education and cognitive reserve extend to brain damage caused by injury rather than disease.
There’s no guaranteed way to increase your cognitive reserve, Schneider says. But there are hints that staying physically and socially active helps, and that “pursuing lifelong learning may be beneficial,” he says.
One limitation of the study is that it relied on a standard disability rating scale, which relies on measures such as a person’s ability to return to work. That could have meant that a college graduate returning to an office job was less likely to be declared disabled than, “a roofer with balance issues,” Schneider says. He adds that even people with a disability rating of zero may still have mental or physical problems caused by their brain injury. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/04/23/306228476/education-may-help-insulate-the-brain-against-traumatic-injury

Citation:

Functional recovery after moderate/severe traumatic brain injury
A role for cognitive reserve?
1. Eric B. Schneider, PhD,
2. Sandeepa Sur, MSc, MHS,
3. Vanessa Raymont, MBChB, MSc, MRCPsych,
4. Josh Duckworth, MD,
5. Robert G. Kowalski, MBBCh, MS,
6. David T. Efron, MD,
7. Xuan Hui, MD, ScM,
8. Shalini Selvarajah, MD, MPH,
9. Hali L. Hambridge, ScM and
10. Robert D. Stevens, MD
+SHOW AFFILIATIONS
| + SHOW FULL DISCLOSURES
1. From the Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research, Department of Surgery (E.B.S., D.T.E., X.H., S. Selvarajah, H.L.H.), Division of Neurosciences Critical Care, Departments of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine (R.G.K., R.D.S.), and Departments of Neurology (R.D.S.) and Neurosurgery (R.D.S.), Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; Tulane Center for Aging (S. Sur), Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA; Department of Radiology (V.R., J.D., R.D.S.), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD; and Centre for Mental Health (V.R.), Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, UK.
1. Correspondence to Dr. Schneider: eschnei1@jhmi.edu
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: ERIC B. SCHNEIDER, PHD
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: SANDEEPA SUR, MSC, MHS
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: VANESSA RAYMONT, MBCHB, MSC, MRCPSYCH
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: JOSH DUCKWORTH, MD
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: ROBERT G. KOWALSKI, MBBCH, MS
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: DAVID T. EFRON, MD
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: XUAN HUI, MD, SCM
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: SHALINI SELVARAJAH, MD, MPH
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: HALI L. HAMBRIDGE, SCM
+ AUTHOR DISCLOSURES: ROBERT D. STEVENS, MD
1. Published online before print April 23, 2014, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000379 Neurology 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000379
» Abstract
Full Text (PDF)
1. Also available:
2. Accompanying Comment
Abstract
Objective: To evaluate the hypothesis that educational attainment, a marker of cognitive reserve, is a predictor of disability-free recovery (DFR) after moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Methods: Retrospective study of the TBI Model Systems Database, a prospective multicenter cohort funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Patients were included if they were admitted for rehabilitation after moderate to severe TBI, were aged 23 years or older, and had at least 1 year of follow-up. The main outcome measure was DFR 1 year postinjury, defined as a Disability Rating Scale score of zero.
Results: Of 769 patients included, 214 (27.8%) achieved DFR at 1 year. In total, 185 patients (24.1%) had <12 years of education, while 390 (50.7%) and 194 patients (25.2%) had 12 to 15 years and ≥16 years of education, respectively. DFR was achieved by 18 patients (9.7%) with <12 years, 120 (30.8%) with 12 to 15 years, and 76 (39.2%) with ≥16 years of education (p < 0.001). In a logistic regression model controlling for age, sex, and injury- and rehabilitation-specific factors, duration of education of ≥12 years was independently associated with DFR (odds ratio 4.74, 95% confidence interval 2.70–8.32 for 12–15 years; odds ratio 7.24, 95% confidence interval 3.96–13.23 for ≥16 years).
Conclusion: Educational attainment was a robust independent predictor of 1-year DFR even when adjusting for other prognostic factors. A dose-response relationship was noted, with longer educational exposure associated with increased odds of DFR. This suggests that cognitive reserve could be a factor driving neural adaptation during recovery from TBI.
Received July 18, 2013.
Accepted in final form January 21, 2014.
© 2014 American Academy of Neurology

Cognitive reserve is the key concept in interpreting this study.

Molly Edmonds wrote in the How Stuff Works article, Can you delay dementia?

But don’t get downhearted; even if you didn’t go for that Ph.D., you can still start challenging the brain at any age to build up cognitive reserve. Software and video games meant to challenge the brain have begun popping up on the market, though scientists warn that these tools don’t have much science behind them [sources: Belluck, Larson]. You don’t even have to get that high-tech. In one study, participants who worked a crossword puzzle four days of the week had a 47 percent lower risk of dementia than those who did a crossword once a week . Mental activities like playing chess and other board games, learning a foreign language, volunteering, reading and playing a musical instrument all keep the brain humming. Finding a friend to do some of these activities with is also a bonus — in a study that examined over 1,000 people, those with a limited social network were 60 percent more likely to have dementia after a three-year period .
For a real-life example of how cognitive reserve can delay dementia, look no further than the 678 Catholic Sisters of Notre Dame, of Mankato, Minn. These nuns’ cognitive states were studied for years as doctors tried to learn more about dementia, and doctors conducted postmortem exams on the women’s brains. In one examination, doctors found that some of the nuns who had signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain hadn’t demonstrated a lack of cognitive function while still alive. The doctors did notice that the blood vessels in the brain were in exceptionally good shape, however, meaning that even as Alzheimer’s started to appear, the brain found a way to work around the challenges [sources: Whitehouse, Tan]. That’s not to say that cognitive reserve can delay dementia forever — if the women had lived longer, they may have developed dementia eventually.
Your brain depends on a regular flow of blood, so another way to keep those cerebral blood vessels working well is good old-fashioned exercise. Read on to find out what other physical activities can help your brain. http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/dementia/delay-dementia1.htm

Just as one must exercise their body to stay healthy, they must also exercise their brain.

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