The founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, Professor Dana Suskind, explains why the most important—and astoundingly simple—thing you can do for your child’s future success in life is to talk to him or her, reveals the recent science behind this truth, and outlines precisely how parents can best put it into practice.
The research is in: Academic achievement begins on the first day of life with the first word said by a cooing mother just after delivery.
A study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in 1995 found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their fourth birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.
Professor Dana Suskind, MD, learned of this thirty million word gap in the course of her work as a cochlear implant surgeon at University of Chicago Medical School and began a new research program along with her sister-in-law, Beth Suskind, to find the best ways to bridge that gap. The Thirty Million Word Initiative has developed programs for parents to show the kind of parent-child communication that enables optimal neural development and has tested the programs in and around Chicago across demographic groups. They boil down to getting parents to follow the three Ts: Tune in to what your child is doing; Talk more to your child using lots of descriptive words; and Take turns with your child as you engage in conversation. Parents are shown how to make the words they serve up more enriching. For example, instead of telling a child, “Put your shoes on,” one might say instead, “It is time to go out. What do we have to do?” The lab’s new five-year longitudinal research program has just received funding so they can further corroborate their results.
The neuroscience of brain plasticity is some of the most valuable and revolutionary medical science being done today. It enables us to think and do better. It is making a difference in the lives of both the old and young. If you care for children, this landmark book is essential reading.
A philosopher makes the case for thinking of works of art as tools for investigating ourselves
In his new book, Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, the philosopher and cognitive scientist Alva Noë raises a number of profound questions: What is art? Why do we value art as we do? What does art reveal about our nature? Drawing on philosophy, art history, and cognitive science, and making provocative use of examples from all three of these fields, Noë offers new answers to such questions. He also shows why recent efforts to frame questions about art in terms of neuroscience and evolutionary biology alone have been and will continue to be unsuccessful.
“Everywhere I looked it seemed that we were being defined by what our brains were doing . . . Everywhere, there were hucksters and geniuses, all trying to colonize the new world of the brain.”
“I’d never been a science person,” Casey Schwartz declares at the beginning of her far-reaching quest to understand how we define ourselves. Nevertheless, in her early twenties, she was drawn to the possibilities and insights emerging on the frontiers of brain research. Over the next decade she set out to meet the neuroscientists and psychoanalysts engaged with such questions as, How do we perceive the world, make decisions, or remember our childhoods? Are we using the brain? Or the mind? To what extent is it both?
Schwartz discovered that neuroscience and psychoanalysis are engaged in a conflict almost as old as the disciplines themselves. Many neuroscientists, if they think about psychoanalysis at all, view it as outdated, arbitrary, and subjective, while many psychoanalysts decry neuroscience as lacking the true texture of human experience. With passion and humor, Schwartz explores the surprising efforts to find common ground. Beginning among the tweedy Freudians of North London and proceeding to laboratories, consulting rooms, and hospital bedsides around the world, Schwartz introduces a cast of pioneering characters, from Mark Solms, a South African neuropsychoanalyst with an expertise in dreams, to David Silvers, a psychoanalyst practicing in New York, to Harry, a man who has lost his use of language in the wake of a stroke but who nevertheless benefits from Silvers’s analytic technique. In the Mind Fields is a riveting view of the convictions, obsessions, and struggles of those who dedicate themselves to the effort to understand the mysteries of inner life.
Human beings have made images continuously for more than thirty thousand years. The oldest known cave paintings are between six and ten times older than the first forms of written language. Images help us organize our thoughts and represent them in our memory. We make images, Jonathan Fineberg argues, because we need them to aid not only in structuring our social and psychological self-conceptions but also in developing the circuitry of our brains.
Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain is a broad investigation by one of the foremost scholars of modern art of the relationship between modern art and the structure of the mind and brain. Based on Fineberg’s Presidential Lectures at the University of Nebraska, his book examines the relationship between artistic production, neuroscience, and the way we make meaning in form. Drawing on the art of Robert Motherwell, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Christo, Jean Dubuffet, and others, Fineberg helps us understand the visual unconscious, the limits of language, and the political impact of art. Throughout, he works from the conviction that looking is a form of thinking that has a profound impact on the structure of the mind.
Human beings evolved in the company of others and flourish in proportion to their positive social ties. To understand the human brain, we must situate its biology in the wider context of society. To understand society, we must also consider how the brains and minds of individuals shape interactions with other human beings. Social Neuroscience offers a comprehensive new framework for studying the brain, human development, and human behavior.
In this book, leading researchers in the fields of neurobiology, psychiatry, psychology, and sociology elucidate the connections between brain biology and the brain’s functioning in the social world, providing a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary explanation of how humans think and act, as well as the ways we define and treat pathological behavior. Synthesizing the insights and perspectives of these experts, Social Neuroscience examines how neural processes make the brain sensitive to social experience, how cognition shapes social behavior, and how social networks create a range of responses among different individuals to the same environmental stimuli.
The mutually reinforcing connections between brain, mind, and society have profound implications for human health, from the emotionally damaging effects of severe social deprivation to the neurological impact of parental abuse and neighborhood violence. The authors explore these connections, with special focus on mental illnesses, including schizophrenia?a disorder characterized by marked social deficits in which a neurological basis is now well established.