Saturday, February 04, 2006

reason number ?/aka, take it where we find it?

Just over a year ago we got a card in the mail informing us that a friend had purchased for us a gift subscription to Seed Magazine. I wasn't sure at the time what to expect.
Sometime thereafter the first copy arrived in the mail. Seed describes itself with the slogan, "Science is culture." The magazine does present, in each issue, a number of interesting science stories. The current issue, February/March 2006, has an interesting article about Elizabeth Gould and her work with at the Princeton University Department of Psychology in neuroscience and neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells. Her work with marmosets has brought new insight into how the brain develops.
While reading this article, one bit jumped out at me.

When a brain is worried, it's just thinking about survival. It isn't interested in investing in new cells for the future.
On the other hand, enriched animal environments-enclosures that simulate the complexity of a natural habitat-lead to dramatic increases in both neurogenesis and the density of neuronal dendrites, the branches that connect one neuron to another.

Keep in mind that the research here was done on marmosets. However, I can see the link to humans, but my first leap is toward the homeschooling family as I read those lines.
By providing the loving environment, along with a variety of resources and interaction with the real world that are inherent to proper homeschooling, we are helping our kids' brains grow. The common public school classroom on the other hand causes stress, and it therefore leaves the brain to often in a fight or flight response condition.
The article further mentions that too much stress, especially at a young age, not only retards neurogenesis in childhood but also trains the brain to continue this unhealthy lack of growth.
This information could be used to describe a number of societal ills. Elizabeth Gould herself, according to the article, ". . . prefers to focus on the strictly scientific. . ." However, the article also mentions her interest in questions of poverty in relation to her research.
With the homeschool mindset that guides my focus these days, I saw in this what I would have looked for. I'm not a scientist and can't say that I'm right. But based on the article, it's at least something to think about.
And thinking about this, I feel that I have yet another goal toward which to work. I want my kids to have open minds. I want them to have a healthy sense of self and of right and wrong. I also want them to experience a life of newness, learning and neurogenesis.