Friday, 23 February 2018

Ka tikaka o ka roro - The developing brain

Had the opportunity to listen to Nathan Wallis, Neuroscientist, talk for an hour yesterday. Could have EASILY spent a whole day listening to him talk - actually, I walked away wanting to be a neuroscientist.

One of the most fascinating talks I have ever been to, it shed light on the way a human's frontal cortex develops throughout their life time. Although I could never relay the key messages in his talk as articulate as he did, I will endeavour to share the most interesting parts of the talk below:

Image result for frontal cortex function

* Claims below are scientifically proven based on research and evidence.
** There are always exceptions to the rule.

  1. Intelligence is not genetic/hereditary (if it was, we'd see family clusters of Einsteins and Da Vincis) - who your mum is, or who your dad is, has no impact on how intelligent you will be.
  2. The first 1000 days of a baby's life (from conception to 1000 days later) will impact how intelligent a child will be
    1. In the first 1000 days, a baby will interact with it's environment to determine the level of complexity in the world. The more complex, the more the brain develops to make sense of the world, the less complex, the less the brain develops to make sense of the world
  3. Kanohi ki te kanohi. Face to face interaction is the one thing that ENGAGES the brain the most (remember, scientific). When engaging in face to face interaction, the brain lights up all over, having to interpret language, facial features, tone etc etc. 
  4. The more face to face time a baby gets (with talking), the more stimulated it's brain is, the more complex it believes the world to be and the more it's brain develops.
  5. The genetic advantage for first born children is time. Parents and caregivers have more time to spend on face to face interactions with their first born children, therefore the interactions they have with their environment are more complex, causing their brains to understand the world as being a complex place. 
  6. Furthermore, females frontal cortices (plural of cortex) develop faster than males, reaching full maturity  anywhere from 18-24, whereby males frontal cortices are fully developed anywhere between 22-32 (this information is new-ish, once upon a time, we used to think the frontal cortex was fully developed by the age of 12!)
  7. Taking into account numbers 5 and 6, birth order and gender can really impact developmental milestones. A first born who is a female has the advantage of time of face to face interactions and a faster developing frontal cortex, where as a second born male has less face to face interaction and already has a slower developing frontal cortex. Despite even a one year difference, the first born could have her frontal cortex fully developed at age 18 while born only one year later, the second born could have his frontal cortex developed at age 32
    1. Being a first born male could mean frontal cortex is developed as early as 22, with the genetic advantage of time of face to face interaction. 
    2. Being a second born female could mean the frontal cortex being developed by 24 with the disadvantage of not having as much face to face time as the first born child
  8. Nathan stated that non first born sons are the biggest risk cohort, with most men in prisons being not the first born male and the highest suicide rate of not being the first born male. 
How does this information help us? We need to be aware of the rate at which our boys frontal cortices develop, particularly our second, third, fourth born boys. We need to be careful that they aren't labelled "naughty", "lazy", "slow", "can't focus their attention", just because their female counterparts obviously have frontal cortices that are more developed at the same age. Second born males with first born sisters, are bound to be told the above. 

There is a whole other section I wanted to write about, Perry's Neurosequential model, but I'll leave that for next time... 

1 comment:

D J Burt said...

I am hanging on for your next post now Latai. This is fascinating stuff. Thanks for taking the time to share this. There is so much to think about as a teacher, a sibling, a mother and a grandmother (some of which is in your future!), as well as being a good neighbour, aunty and friend. It certainly aligns with the Talking Matters work our cluster is involved with too.