Saturday, September 02, 2006

Brain Sculpting: Optimism & Pessimism

By Whats Shakin'

In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., tells of the potential loss of important neuronal connections:

"The human brain is by no means fully formed at birth . . . Children are born with many more neurons than their mature brains retain; through a process called "pruning" the brain actually loses the neuronal connections that are less used, and forms strong connections in those synaptic circuits that have been utilized the most . . . This process is constant and quick; synaptic connections can form in a matter of hours or days. Experience, particularly in childhood, sculpts the brain."

I started hearing a murmur about brain wiring in the mid 1990’s. There are numerous examples equating the workings of the brain to electricity from the late 1800’s onward. This equation has multiplied with the development of the Internet. But that is for another Blog someday.

What interests me is that use is the determining factor in brain growth. We may sculpt our bodies through exercise so it should not come to any surprise that we may sculpt our minds by applying our attention to various interests. The mind is influenced by the stimuli in the world around it. The so-called wiring responds to stimulus by becoming stronger in particular portions of the brain that are influenced by that stimulus. For example, there are separate areas in the brain for optimistic and pessimistic emotions.

I don’t have any particular bias about either optimism or pessimism. If I have any bias it is for balance. A certain amount of pessimism is healthy unless the result is the loss of hope. Personally I find optimism more pleasing, too much so in the sense of the three monkeys. There is a middle way between seeing no evil and seeing no hope.


Anonymous said...

Brain wiring has interested me since I spent a year a while back doing a family literacy research project and as part of the work, designed an "Early Years" learning program. The first few years (even months) are crucial to a child's brain wiring, or the development of these neural nets that "What's Shakin'" talks about in the blog. All those sweet things mothers and fathers have done for/with their children for centuries count so much - singing songs, cooing, touching, providing stimuli through toys and simple playing - using language around their children. What is sad are those parents who haven't had a role model themselves for this kind of caring and love, and don't know how to give it to their children. These are the kids who suffer most, those who live in an environment where there is no positive stimulation, where the kids live in an emotional, tactile, and intellectual vacuum. No brain wiring going on there. And then what is really sad, is that most of the brain wiring happens in the first few years - by the time a kid reaches Jr. kindergarten age, he/she could lag really far far behind, and find it impossible to catch up to peers - learning to read and write for these kids become so hard.... while others seem to catch on so easily. Their brains have been wired for learning.

As for me, I am situated to the world in generally a positive or at least even/balanced way. I wonder about those people whose brains are situated differently, who are prone to manic depression, or bipolar conditions, hell, or even those who are simply adrenline fed! The roller coaster rides of the body and mind. In a sense, we are our bodies - the chemical compositions, the brain nuances.

Me, I'm caffeine driven - lol. Well, an extra large timmy's first thing each morning to spark the brain synapses....

Anonymous said...

So the brain grows like a plant. Lots of light and sun, right temperature and it grows healthy and strong. Deprived of the right stimulai it withers, looks deformed, may even die.

The same brain action for humans must also count for cats, dogs and other animals. It's our pets we can observe it in closest and best.I'm sure Farley didn't develop his mean streak in Curious' household. There he grew more trusting and tolerant, even though the puppy years were missed.

Once my kids spoke fluent Dutch, although still a bit in a baby way. Then they became bilingual, switching back and forth with no problem at all. When they entered environments where Dutch was not spoken, they lost the way of expressing themselves in it. Although, when the need arose, they picked it up much easier than when they would have to have to learn it new. So do things totally disappear from the brain, or is there always a residue left to build on again. Maybe some cells shrink and lie dormant like seeds in a water deprived soil, ready to spring into action when rain falls again.

I think the actual size of the brain is always the same. It is the same in a small body as it is in a large body of the same species. It is the amount of brain used that counts for growth or shrinkage.

One of the reasons I liked working with pre-schoolers was that I was always aware how important those first five years are in a child's world. I wanted them to feel special and important, and like school. A weapon to fight with when all the negative stuff comes up. When my own kids were that age, I didn't know it yet so conciously. But I think mostly I have done it right by instinct.

I think I am more of an optimist than a pessimist. My daddy was a pessimist. My mommy was an optimist. My sister is more of a pessimist than an optimist. So in a weird way that probably balances out. I am glad I am the more optimistic one, though. Makes life easier.

Larry Keiler said...

Larry sez he's not optimistic about the future of his pessimism.

Anonymous said...

Ah Larry don't be pessimistic of your optimism. Give optimism a chance in a dismal world. I guess your sense of humor is born from pessimism, but creates optimism. Does that make any kind of sense to anyone else but me?

Anonymous said...

Brain sculpting is a funny expression. I imagine that when one is obsessed with dogs, thinks hardly of anything else, the brain takes the shape of a dog. Someone's brain may take the shape of art building with trails around, or someone's brain may take the shape of a kayak, where others may come up with food items as pizza and chicken wings, or stringy like red licorices, even maybe a tuba or an accordion...

Anonymous said...

For the curious and addicted:

Anonymous said...

Okay I read all the posts. Y'all made me smile. Course thinkin’ about being optimistic about pessimism and stuff like that hurts my brain.

Anonymous said...

I read the shortened history of coffee at the site u listed, What's Shakin. Read it while drinking a Timmy's.... the history is very funny. Like, uh, coffee being banned by the RC church until the Pope (can't remember which one) tried it and liked it! I can think of a few other things the Pope might try....

Anyway, I feel a story or a poem brewing.... hey, maybe a novel.... lololol.... already did the tea thing....

Anonymous said...

Oh, BTW, did u guys read the controversy about Xena ALMOST becoming a planet???? Some snooty scientists nixed it... couldn't think outside the box, er the universe. But there's still a chance. As u might know, Pluto just got demoted as a planet (probably the same committee that nixed Xena). I guess the argument goes Pluto is too small or something to be a planet by the new guidelines (so size counts). But there's a groundswell movement to bring back Pluto... really.... lol. If Pluto is reinstated, then Xena by definition would become a planet too. Or maybe not, but perhaps I'll start a club to lobby for it... in the meantime, the Princess Warrior (optimistically) Rides the Sky...

Anonymous said...

A bit of Xena history...

In July, astronomer Michael Brown announced the discovery of a rocky object larger than Pluto in the Kuiper Belt, a disc of icy bodies beyond Neptune. Brown labeled the object a planet and nicknamed it Xena after the lead character in the former TV series ``Xena: Warrior Princess.'' The moon was nicknamed Gabrielle, after Xena's faithful traveling sidekick.

Anonymous said...

How do we know the pope didn't. Some things are harder to 'fess than coffee.

Maybe Pluto or Xena can be the other planet I want to move to when I am fed up with trapped in the box people. Would suit me fine when they are outcasted planets. Imagine staring at a moon, named Gabriella. Does Pluto have a moon?

Imagine planets having to follow a guideline...

Guidelines posted on a bulletin board, or tied to the tail of a comet...

Hear ye, hear ye, all you heavenly bodies, distinguised scientists from Earth proclaim that from now on, in order to qualify as a planet, the following guidelines from this day on,-------- are binding...

Maybe some day a huge planet will be discovered, too big to see with human eyes, and Earth will be from then on too puny to be called a planet.

We will be the citizens of a fallen planet. If we're still around that is.

Larry Keiler said...

We've come a long way from brain-sculpting, but here's what fascinates and confounds Larry: here we have the Hubble space telescope peering into the outer depths of the galaxy trying to learn the secrets of the origin of the universe. Heady stuff, Larry sez. Very advanced. You'd think we humans know what's up or somethin. And yet, only a few months ago a previously unknown rock bigger than Pluto was discovered only a hop and skip away from our lovely little planet.

That's like Larry...musing and fretting about the state of existence, not noticing that soon the leaves will fall.

Larry Keiler said...

Larry just noticed (again) the coffee section. Larry's coffee usually has a short history too. In and out in no time flat.

Without looking at that website, Larry knows that in the beginning coffee was like marijuana today. A coffee shop was a special place where people went to get their fix...just like the whatdoyoucallem marijuana cafés today. Lots of ritual associated with it. Even today.

Heard this guy on the radio the other day. He owns a specialty coffee shop in Hawgtown. Described the making of cappuccino and lattè...a shot of this and a shot of that...a shot of smack...a shot of rum...a shot of buck...a shot in the arm...

excited molecules prance thru sluggish veins

Anonymous said...

Shoot! I just tried to publish a comment and the computer ate it.

I said that Larry, your lines about 'shot here, shot there, shot in the arm...excited molecules prance through sluggish veins,' sounds like a poem. You could make it one.

I answered about looking far away for secrets of the universe and not seeing what's up close; that I wrote something in that vein, a few days ago intending to bring it to editing circle. It talks about me reading Stephen Hawkins, about blackboards, equasions etc., verses my wonderful backyard with nature wonders. It's an observation of how we look far away, let technology take over, and miss the revealing secrets of nature itself.

I mentioned autumn coming in rapidly, yellowing pumpkin leaves, still green tomatoes, and kids going back to school tomorrow to have their brains sculpted, anywhich way it has been decided they should be sculpted.

I'll save this little surrogate of what I originally wrote befor I let my monster eat it again. grrrr.!!!

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