Mozart effect (part 3)
The study of the Mozart effect on children and other experiments on the effect on the development of the child’s brain gave impetus to the widespread dissemination in American society of the ideas of the so-called child determinism — the theory that the first three years of life are decisive for the mental formation of the child. Parents were taught to care for the formation of neural networks in the child’s brain at a very early age.
This new campaign was started by Rob Rainer in a book called “I’m your child.” The first years of life remain forever, he told readers. And this is because it is in the first years of life that the child’s brain forms trillions of synapses (connections connecting brain nerve cells).Consequently, stimulating conditions of development in early childhood, before the final formation of brain structures, are critical for the formation of synapses and thus for the formation of mental, musical and artistic abilities.
Kindergarten is too late. In other words, according to this idea, our fate does not depend on genes or even on the memories of a happy childhood, but on those first three years of life, when, presumably, neural networks are formed in the brain. Any lullaby song, gurgling or Ladushki cause flashes along neural pathways, forming the basis for what can later become a talent for art or a love of football.
No wonder millions of parents panicked when they received this information. Just think, if you miss a critical infant age fit to stimulate intelligence, your child may never get into Harvard! And you will be to blame!
John brewer, President of the McDonnell Foundation in San Luis (Missouri), devoted his eponymous book to a detailed and consistent critique of the Myth of the first three years. This Fund finances research in the field of neurology and cognition.
Brewer analyzed in detail and consistently those aspects of the development of the child’s brain that have already been and have not yet been studied by researchers, highlighting the links between research, political considerations and social policy.
First of all, he warns against the undesirable consequences of the unjustified noise that surrounds the study of the “Mozart effect”, and in General from the exaggerations, inevitably accompanied by a distortion of what neurologists today know about the development of the brain.
The hype surrounding the “first three years” forces parents and educators to pay disproportionate attention to the “right” conditions that stimulate the development of the child up to the age of three, which allegedly will ensure his further intellectual development.
Brewer argues that “child determinism” is based on an unreasonably extended interpretation of the results of certain studies of the brain, on a highly inflated assessment of their importance not only by scientists, but especially by enthusiasts of children’s education and their supporters.
One of the main justifications for “child determinism” are studies showing that most neural connections, or synapses, are formed in the brain of a child up to the age of three.
Indeed, the baby is born with a relatively small number of synapses, their number increases sharply to about three years of age, then decreases and by the age of four to five years is stabilized, no longer changing throughout human life. This picture is not controversial. But “mythmakers” insist that stimulating the formation of synapses, and only during their growth, lays the Foundation for intellectual abilities for life.
This interpretation, brewer says, is highly questionable. First, there is no evidence that having more synapses improves learning abilities.
Moreover, an increased number of synapses can lead to learning difficulties. This phenomenon was found in the study of a certain syndrome caused by a hereditary defect of the X chromosome, which is accompanied by mental inferiority and an increased number of synapses in the brain.
In addition to this, it is well known that youth — the age when the number of synapses is already constant-is the most important period for learning and shaping character and behavior. Supporters of the “myth of three years” also refer to the fact that laboratory rats growing up in a favorable environment, the area of the cerebral cortex is larger than those who developed in poor conditions.
The researchers also found that in these rats, each neuron has 25 percent more synaptic connections. These data are not in doubt, but a little deeper analysis shows that significant changes in rat brains occur mainly in the visual area, which is not directly related to training. Thus, the conclusions about the obvious relationship between synapses and abilities are, at least, too simplistic.
Brewer further shows that most of our learning is not limited to a critical period, but takes place throughout life.
This statement finds its justification in the recent remarkable discoveries of neuroscientists who experimentally found that, contrary to previous ideas about the final formation of the brain in childhood, the brain develops throughout life, constantly forming new nerve cells.
This plasticity of the brain allows us to learn at any age. This does not mean, of course, that severe long-term deprivation at an early age will not have a negative impact on intelligence. But long-term observations have shown that over time, even such an unfavorable beginning can be largely compensated.
Language learning plays a special role in the issue of children’s education. Most people can learn languages and improve at any age. But the early years are considered critical for learning a second language without an accent.
New research shows that the age at which a person learned a language determines in which region of the brain it will be “stored”. For the first time, researchers came across this idea when working with patients who have undergone partial paralysis of the brain.