Sunday, February 06, 2005

Understanding the Visual Difficulties in Dyslexia

If your dyslexic child seems to struggle with the visual aspects of reading, but the eye doctor said 'everything's fine' - the problem may be with brain-based aspects of seeing in dyslexia. Dyslexia can be associated with a wide range of visual difficulties including problems with stabilizing visual gaze, moving the eyes smoothly and in a coordination fashion, and visually registering letters or words.

Additional studies supporting the visual aspects of dyslexia continue to trickle out, but here in the U.S., much more attention is paid to the phonological aspects of dyslexia in the classroom. Children may have predominant phonological problems, predominant visual problems, or mixtures of the two. Understand what a particular child's difficulties are will help focus remediation and educational strategies.

There has been an explosion of research in the biological bases of dyslexia in the past few years. School are having to play catch up with the pace of research.

Dyslexia Research Trust - Science and Research
Dyslexia More than Phonological Disorder
Seeing Differently - Contrast Differences and Dyslexia

Tinnitus, Hyperacusis, and Hearing Loss in School Aged Kids

It's not your imagination, classrooms are filled with children with auditory processing problems - for some it's mishearing, others have exquisite auditory sensitivity and become overwhelmed with normal school noise. Although clinicians have known for a long time that hearing loss and hearing hypersensitivity can occur in the same patients, the biological processes involved are just beginning to be understood.

Children often don't mention that they suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and there are no ways to detect it by a simple clinical test. The first link below shows how tinnitus can be 'seen' on functional brain imaging studies. When certain frequencies are lost in the brain, the 'hearing brain' reorganizes to try and compensate for the loss. The only problem is, the hearing of some frequencies may become overly sensitive, while the losses of others still persist. Interestingly, some of the most beneficial therapies for tinnitus are directed at introducing sound at the appropriate frequencies to allow the brain to reduce its self-generated sounds.

There are many reasons why we may be seeing more hearing loss, tinnitus, and sound hypersensitivities in school-aged children. Predisposing factors are many, but may include premature or stressful birth, frequent ear infections, and or autism spectrum disorders.

The diagnosis of brain-based auditory processing disorders is still in its infancy, although the pace of research and advancement in the areas of auditory training are exciting.

Seeing Tinnitus on fMRI
Tinnitus, Hyperacusis, and Hearing Loss
Hyperacusis in Autism
Auditory Processing and Language Difficulties in Prematurely Born

Flash from the Past: Helen Keller and Different Ways of Sensing

Other senses become keener with deprivation, and for Helen Keller, touch, proprioceptive sense, and smell became essential modes of communicating with and sensing others. From Anne Sullivan's writings: "Her sense of touc has sensibly increased during the year, and has gained in acuteness and delicacy. Indeed her whole body is so finely organized that she seems to use it as a medium for bringing herself into closer relations with her fellow creatures. She is able not only to distinguish with great accuracy the different undulations of the air and the vibrations of the floor ade by various sounds and motions, and to recognize her friends and acquantiance the instance she touches their hands or clothing..."

When children are severely impaired in critical sensory modalities like sight or sound, it is important to remember that other senses can help a child compensate, and instruction needs to be driven through the intact pathways.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Analogies - Differences in Biology & Practical Teaching Tips

Analogies can be a powerful tool for teaching higher order thinking, and strong performance in analogies is thought by some to be the greatest predictor of creative and flexible thinking.

This first paper is a beautiful study by Wagner and his group at Stanford. It shows the different anatomical 'filing' away in the brain of words that are merely related and those that are true analogies - related by functional relationships or representations. It's the analogy that is foundational for higher order creative thinking. Understanding how one system could be related or differentiated (the analogy breaks down) from another leads to new theories, new models, and new paradigms.

Teaching with analogies can be a powerful approach for gifted thinkers. We've included two links to teachers' sites discussing the use of analogies in teaching. Please send us your favorite links or books too - we'd like to hear about them.

Anatomy of Analogies
Teaching with Analogies
Teachers views of analogies and models as motivators

More About the New SAT

The New SAT

Attentional Problems and Epilepsy

"Little seizures" should always be considered in children who have periods of 'spaciness' or 'blanking out'. Subclinical seizures may just cause a child to flutter eyelids, lose her train of thought, or repeat what he was saying. Sometimes brief or nighttime seizures cause attentional problems and restlessness that are misinterpreted as ADHD. Treatment of epilepsy results in improved attention and behavior.

Attentional problems and epilepsy in children
Incidence of Seizures in Children
Improved Behavior with Treatment of Epilepsy
ADHD and Epilepsy
Language Difficulties in Children with Benign Epilepsy

Friday, February 04, 2005

Listening to Action Sentences Activates Motor Circuits

Talk about exercising your mind! Hooked on adventure stories? Chances are you're living the action through your brain's motor imagery.

Listening to Action-related Sentences Activates Fronto-parietal Motor Circuits --

Elaborative Rehearsal and Memory

Finally, some news you can use. Elaborative rehearsal of information (reorganizing information in a meaningful way) is the best way to help you remember. "Just memorizing", or rote rehearsal helps things look 'familiar', but is not as good helping you remember.

For list material, elaborative rehearsal may mean calling up relevant associations, developing mneumonics, stories, adding images, or redrafting or outlining information as mentioned in the linked article from the ADHD lawyer posted yesterday. Now many students of psychology may not be surprised at this study's result, but how many K-12 students are aware of this valuable tidbit?

Different Strategies for Memory

Upcoming Book on ADHD and Creativity

What if Einstein Had Taken Ritalin? ADHD's Impact on Creativity

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Understanding Brain Remodeling-Based Education

We're back! Over the next few weeks, we'd like to talk about some of the main take-home points of developmental neurobiology, and what it means for education. Multiple Intelligences was important for introducing and popularizing the concept of different preferences for learning, and Mel Levine's approach of "A Mind At a Time" emphasizes the importance of learning differences in each child, but neither addresses the implications of brain plasticity or its tremendous reorganization potential in education, the importance of perceptual processing disorders in school underachievement, and the potential for targeted brain-based retraining to overcome specific learning blocks.

We're at a point where the lines between biology and education blur. We would like to hear some discussion from some of you about what education should include. These days it seems that a majority of the time in school is spent on fact mastery and the basic building blocks of reading, writing, and mathematics. Should a core system of neurocognitive skills be added to this list? Is it a responsibility of educators to help entrain skills of sustained attention, organization, or efficient memory? Or if not, whose job is it?

Advice from Adults with ADD

We like the resources at www.addresources.org It's especially nice to hear from successful adults who learned time and task organizational strategies that helped them. We fear that our existing educational supports for children with attentional problems are spotty and haphazard. Because children with attention problems are thought to comprise almost 1 in 5 children, a more systematic approach to different learning environments, and teaching of self-focusing and organization strategies could have a powerful impact on student success.

ADDvice from a Certified ADHD Non-Expert

Mathematical Understanding: An Introduction

Here is a link to the National Academies Press' free online book, the Mathematics chapter. Mathematics is the perhaps one of the most commonly underrecognized learning disabilities.

Nat'l Academies Press, How Students Learn: (2005), page 218, in chapter Part II MATHEMATICS: 5 Mathematical Understanding: An Introduction

Friday, January 28, 2005

Blog Vacation Until Feb 3rd! Discussion About Brain Remodeling-Based Education When We Return

We hope you've been enjoying this blog. We're headed out of town and will be back Feb 3rd. When we return, we'd like to share our ideas about "Brain Remodeling-Based Education" and think about how it builds on, but is quite different from Howard Gardner's view of learning embodied in "Multiple Intelligences" and Mel Levine's approach using the model of "A Mind at a Time."

A little preview:

Education today needs to incorporate the view of brain ability and function as a highly dynamic and changeable system. Perceptual disorders in the primary senses - seeing, hearing, and touch, and preferences in memory systems profoundly affect learning efficiency and achievement in school. Thinking about the different ways we think and how much may be within our control, can fundamentally affect the best ways we should teach, how we approach disabilities and special education, and how we design education for the high ability learners.

Serotonin, Aggression, Apathy, and Empathy

The new black box warnings about SSRIs and children were directed toward depressed children and adolescents, and extra caution was raised about possible increased suicide risk. However, SSRIs are not prescribed for depressed children - in fact they are prescribed for a wide variety of behavioral disorders in children that include 'disruptive behavior disorder' ('explosive child') and severe anxiety disorder. The question is what effects could they be having on these children, and how well is the safety known?

The serotonin system is widely distributed throughout the brain and it appears to be involved in many processes important for behavior - including arousal, aggression, activation of the autonomic system, pain modulation, and pain modulation. The links provide additional background to the serotonin story. The illicit drug ecstasy is nicknamed the hug drug for the euphoric and empathetic outpourings that can come from its use. After the effect wears off, though, there appears to be a rebound and users are more aggressive or tend to perceive statements in a more aggressive fashion.

These studies again raise cautions about what we know and don't know about serotonin drugs in developing children. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is usually regulated in specific locations in precise ways in response to brain activation. Pharmacology is still very non-specific in its action at different sites and in its effects on neurotransmitter levels over time. SSRIs should not be thought of simply restoring something that a child lacks. SSRIs should not be considered lightly these drugs clearly affect much more than aggression or anxiety, and they may unwittingly affect 'good' serotonin-drive pathways (empathy, motivation)as well.


Serotonin, Aggression, Empathy

SSRIs and Apathy
The Empathy Drug
Not Seeing All the Data
The "file drawer" phenomenon: suppressing clinical evidence

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Autism, Movement, and Facial Processing

The finding that some autistic subjects have difficulty rapidly processing the emotional movements of the face, suggests that slow motion training can improve individual's facial processing. DVDs and videos can be advanced frame-by-frame to help children recognize emotional expressions and their context. The second link below is to Baron-Cohen's Software for facial emotion recognition at amazon.com.

Autism, Movement, and Facial Processing

Mind Reading Software

Writing Errors by Normal Subjects

This study is a good reminder to us that writing is rarely 'automatic'. When University students had to do other tasks at the same time (like making nonsense sounds or tapping) they made multiple errors like omissions, grammatical mistakes, repetitions, and substitutions. It was interesting too that there were different patterns of errors between the two conditions.

These interference effects may play some role in the dysgraphia of dyslexia. Some writing errors may occur because of students'increased demands of the phonological loop or the sensory-motor systems for writing by hand.

Writing is Not Automatic

The Positive Side of Video Games and Learning

The article below shares a very positive view of video gaming and learning, and to be true there are many positives. Our daughter just got Harvest Moon for her birthday, an RPG or role playing game whereby you live a virtual life, set up a farm, harvest your crops, sell your goods, find someone to marry, have children, and basically make for yourself a 'good life'. After a little bit of time, we looked in on her - and in the nick of time, we stepped in to prevent her from marrying a poor prospect("Everyone else seemed married, I thought well I just have to get married to someone anyway...")! We encouraged her to wait for the 'right one', told her to spend a little more time 'looking', then redirected her to invest more in resources for the farm and planting more crops before the season was over. She had spent way too much money on dating, and her fields were empty!

Many games do have excellent learning opportunities that encourage decision making, taking risks, flexibility, planning ahead and delay gratification, and a little human psychology to boot. Some limitation in computer use should be had for young children, but there certainly can be excellent benefits if parents carefully research programs and try the programs out themselves first.

In addition, there are wonderful for open source (free) video programming programs that even young children can begin to learn. We are just in the process of joining a school-sponsored homeschool resource center, and found that RPG Maker classes begin in the 3rd grade! (we wish Cybercamps and Digipen's summer program would take the hint).

Video game programming is a great hobby and outlet for children who are tech-happy, and creative. There is a lot to learn about what makes a good game, what makes interesting characters and stories, how problems can be troubleshooted, and the different options that occur in computer programming. Two free resources for do-it-yourself video game programming are Gamemaker (Gamemaker) and RPG Maker (RPG Maker). Games made from the programs can be downloaded from different sites, so children can learn from others how particular effects were achieved, or the over-all game was programmed.

Positive View of Video Games

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Understanding Visual Perception- Part I

Maybe you've seen it on a report from a neuropsychologist or school psychologist, or maybe you're just wondering what visual perceptual problems are because you've heard it might occur in dyslexia. Visual perceptual disorders are not uncommon in school age children, and they may present in a variety of ways that may include persistent letter or word reversals, tendency to get lost easily, impaired visual recognition of objects, visual distractibility, and poor drawing and copying.

Risk factors for visual perceptual disorders may include such conditions as dyslexia, premature birth, other birth stress or injury, and autism spectrum disorders or Aspergers.

So what is it? Visual perception is how the brain organizes the visual information coming from the eyes. The eye is not a simple camera. The brain organizes and priorities visual information, looks for shapes, edges, and meaning, makes decisions about what it sees, what to emphasize, and what to ignore. In visual perceptual disorders, the brain can make errors in the general shape, orientation, texture, color, organization, detail, movement, and identity.

Not surprisingly, these problems can make a child look 'spacey', disoriented, inattentive, bizarre (may have poor eye contact), and forgetful. These children may be forever losing things, develop clinging or anxious behaviors, and have perplexing difficulties while learning.

It is important to understand visual perceptual disorders, because research studies suggest that specific training can help overcome some practical difficulties. Also, educationally, the more specific the knowledge about a child's disability, the better choices can be made for optimal learning style and visual environment (lighting, crowding, color, visual presentation).

It was difficult choosing what reference might be most helpful for you blog readers. We've started with one of the easiest articles (simplified) first, then posted our pdf file of "The Different Ways We See", and lastly, a more technical article on visual perception. Visual perception is a complicated topic- and that's probably why it is often not explained to parents. Taking it step-by-step, though, we think you'll find that it helps you understand what a child is going through when she or he has trouble understanding his visual environment. In another post, we'll discuss promising strategies for rehabilitation.

The Different Ways We See
Visual Perception

Understanding Complex Visual Scenes

Studies like these are simple, but they provide strategies for helping children successfully negotiate their environment. Children with visual perceptual problems need training at finding relevant material in crowded situations. Visually busy areas with a lot of movement can be very overwhelming. An important goal is to help children find the salient, or most important features in a busy scene to help orientation. Decisions may be more difficult depending on a child's position in a location, visual angle of looking, the lighting, new materials (holiday decorations, flyers), distracting people or details, and other factors.

If there are recurrent crowded areas where a student becomes overwhelmed or lost, consider photographing it and verbally reviewing salient features to help with orientation. Once a child has mastered orientation in a picture, then bring them again to the busy location, and review the key visual features. Verbal mediation can compensate a great deal for visual figure ground difficulties - it's just hard to remember to check because most children won't tell you that visual overload or distraction is the problem.

Visual complexity of real world scenes

Hearing in Noise - Harder When Sounds are Moving

Because the ears also provide information about localization, hearing impairment is often accompanied by distortion in sound localization. This brief abstract found that hearing was much more difficult for a moving target (beware of walking lecturers!).

Hearing Moving Targets

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Showing Your Work in Mathematics? Should We Insist?

We were recently talking to Jean Goerss, M.D. about this (she's setting up a school for the highly gifted in Arizona and an author of that wonderful book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults)and we thought we'd share our ideas on this issue.

Although the neurobiology of mathematical ability is still early in its development, it is clear that different brain pathways are activated depending on pathway that is undertaken. In brain imaging studies of problem solving, researchers have been able to show that solving problems by deduction (step-wise, conscious) occurs by a very different route than sudden insight (Aha!, unconscious).

That means that in many cases, it may be difficult for a person solving mathematical problems by insight to know exactly how he or she arrived at an answer. As a general rule, it would therefore be best not to insist on a stepwise solution. But that being said, at the highest levels of mathematics, many gifted problem-solvers are very aware of how they may shift between conscious and 'sub-conscious' solutions, and a better understanding how all this brain stuff works only improves problem-solving for the future.

A number of mathematicians and physicists have written about their thought processes, and often the insight or inductive approaches to problem solving require some free association, manipulation of vague images (auditory or visual), and distraction (music, sleep, etc).

For our gifted mathematicians able to solve problems by insight then, although it may not be the best idea to take a hard line about showing every step of a solution, it might be beneficial to discuss different strategies for solving problems, and to discuss how certain problems may be more readily solved by particular method (e.g. visual, symbolic, verbal, mathematical...). The best situation, it would seem, is to have an arsenal of possible approaches, and flexibility and competence at undertaking different strategies to solve a problem most easily.

A great fairly easy read for topics such as this is James L Adam's Conceptual Blockbusting (A Guide to Better Ideas). We really enjoyed it. He addresses the various blocks which can occur in seeking alternate solutions to different problems (e.g. perceptual, emotional cultural and environmental, intellectual and expressive), and the need to thinking in alternative thinking languages to have the greatest flexibility and strength as a problem solver.

Intact Visual Selective Attention in ADHD; Impaired Motor Inhibition

This study caught our eye. Unfortunately we can't post a link to the original article as it is too 'new'. Although the way attention deficit disorder is sometimes referred to as a general attention or executive function disorder, many clinicians and scientists have also commented briefly about "hyperfocus", often in the setting of computer activities.

This small study of 9-12 year old children found that selective visual attention was just fine. What children had difficulty with was inhibiting motor responses (button clicks) when visual distractors were flashed on screen.

We would like to see if some of this work could be replicated with larger groups of children diagnosed with ADHD. There have been some large scale studies comparing behavioral interventions with medical treatment, but surprisingly few studies examining the best learning strategies for children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. Today most clinical treatment trials are funded primarily by pharmaceutical companies, and fewer financial resources are available for studying non-medical or educational approaches.

Intact Visual Selective Attention in ADD; Impaired Motor Inhibition

Monday, January 24, 2005

Autism- Beyond the Behavioral Checklist

Although researchers are making progress at identifying autistic behaviors at earlier ages, surprising little help is available to counsel a parent or teacher on their perceptual or language impairments, learning blocks, or preferred route of learning by the time the children have already entered school.

The behavioral checklist is not going to be able to distinguish children who have central or peripheral auditory impairment, eye movement or visual field abnormalities, brain-based visual perceptual deficits, receptive or expressive language problems, or selective attention or memory deficits.

Individual cognitive strengths and weaknesses need to be evaluated, and specific learning recommendations made based individual learning preferences and strengths, as well as disabilities. Because of the complex differences that exist between children who may share the diagnostic label of "autism", social skills teaching will be most effective if teaching styles are specifically matched to a child's learning profile. For instance, a child with impairment in sound processing might benefit from learning auditory cues of social interaction (prosody, pause, content), whereas such approach would be completely inappropriate for a child with visual perceptual problems who might learn better social interactions from studying computer slow motion visual analyses of faces or other visual therapy.

Daily Herald: Learning and Autism
Neurobiology of Autism
Cognitive Variability Among Autistic Children
Hearing Problems in Autism

Gifted Minority Students: Factors Affecting Achievement and Underachievement

Because of what appears to be fairly dramatic underrepresentation of gifted minority students in gifted programs, those who have been identified have passed through difficult 'cuts'. The road may still be difficult though, and parents and teachers should be aware of the importance of strong parent involvement, good student-teacher relationships, sensitivity to learning style differences, and an outlook characterized by optimism and realistic high expectations.

Achievement and Underachievement Among Gifted Minority Students: Problems and Promises

How Do We Do It? More Brain Imaging of Math (Algebra)

Visual, Spatial, and Language areas are activated when solving algebra equations.

Functional Brain Imaging in Algebra

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Different Worlds of Words and Pictures

These low tech tasks remind us a little of the old playground challenge of trying to pat your head with one hand and rub your tummy with the other...but they underscore the existence of separate verbal and visual processing modes, and differential effects of interfering outside tasks.

This kind of research work doesn't seem very high tech, but it does have practical implications for student activites involving multi-tasking, and recommendations for the learning plans of children with auditory verbal or visual weakness.

In the linked abstract below, articulatory suppression refers to a 'blocking' of 'silent speech' by repetitive nonsense speech. If you say pa-pa-pa-pa-pa then it won't interfere with your ability to visually match two pictures or match a verbal description and a picture. But interestingly, a spatial tapping task at the same time could interfere with picture-picture matching and sentence-picture matching if the subjects noted that they tended to imagine a visual picture from the sentence.

In the classroom, some strongly visual learners struggle with balancing the spatial demands of handwriting and note-taking while listening to lectures that evoke strong images. For pure auditory verbal learners (what you hear is what you get), this isn't a problem.

Don't think that auditory learners get off too easily, though. Children or adults who are driving their subvocalization or "saying-to-yourself" pathways overly hard (may happen as a compensation for weak verbal or visual memory), may find themselves can be swamped by too many words or too fast-talking teachers. Because subvocalization during note-taking requires registering what a teacher said, and than saying again to yourself to remember, it means that there is a delay. If during this delay, more incoming auditory information comes in, then it jams the circuits.

Verbal and Visual Learning- Perils of Multi-Tasking

Note-taking Strategies, Teachers Notes, and Disability

Here's a very nice link providing examples of different note-taking strategies. Failure at note-taking may be the final common pathway for many disabilities - dysgraphia or writing disability of course, but also students with auditory processing disorders, visual processing disorders (students with visual memory problems may need to subvocalize to remember- so they get into the "I'm swamped" situation described in today's other article), and those with sustained attention or working memory limitation problems.

All that being said, in the school system we have often found it to be very difficult to allow students to have a syllabus or 'Teachers Notes'. A syllabus is available in most college courses, so what's the problem at the middle or high school level? We hope this will change. Some thoughtful teachers make their notes or syllabi available to all the students - with the idea that they may make additional notes while listening. One high school near to us has even set as a goal to place all upcoming assignments and classroom requirements on Teacher Web pages.

When one stops to think about all the processes required for listening, looking, and taking notes, it's easy to understand how many students can be left behind. Many students can make excellent progress experimenting with note-taking strategies, using visualization methods like Lindamood Bell's Visualizing and Verbalizing, or practicing abstracting or distilling down verbally what was heard. However, some may never be able to do this, although intellectually they may be able to learn all the same information of their classmates. For these students, strict accommodations need to be in place, and a regular system needs to be in place that does not place an undue social burden on the disabled student (e.g. having to ask another student for notes every day).

Notetaking Strategies

Math Wars

Given all the new research showing different pathways for mathematical processing such as exact calculation vs. approximation, we support a balanced curriculum of math teaching that includes precise calculation and conventional math subjects like geometry and algebra as well as real-life applications.

Math Wars

The Math Wars -- Objectivist Center

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Dyslexia and The Visual Word Form Brain Area- Implications for Reading, Spelling, and Foreign Language

The first link is a technical, but interesting review of the findings that led up to the discovery that the brain has a specialized clusters of neurons that recognize strings of letters that make up 'words'. Dyslexic individuals who have problems with 'visual word form' may have difficulty spelling and sometimes recognizing non-phonetic words (for instance 'their').

Visual word form weakness can look perplexing to others because these individuals are often very bright, but seem to labor at recognizing or even seeing whole words at once...preferring instead to identify words 'letter-by-letter'.

Interestingly, strategies for overcoming visual word form weakness usually succeed if they build on the strengths in other pathways - for instance auditory memory, or other visual memory systems that may involve color or picture recognition. Blocks in visual word form memory do exist, but they can be overcome with a skillful redirection of learning to emphasize alternative memory systems in the brain.

The second article discusses the particular difficulties of English and French for dyslexics. Some dyslexic students may foreign language waiver because of the severity of their language processing difficulties. If some foreign language must be chosen, then Spanish or Italian (both more predictable re: spelling and phonetics)or ASL might be the best choices.

Dehaene review on Visual Word Form

Dyslexia harder on English- and French-speaking Children

Look At Me! Visual Overload with Eye Contact in Young Children

When we prompt young children to "look at your teacher", "look at me when your talking", etc etc, it's helpful for us to remember this study which found that having to look at faces put extra demands on both auditory and visual memory tasks. Children have poor eye contact for many different reasons - including working memory overload and eye or brain-related visual problems.

When most elementary school children are asked what they think we mean when we ask them to pay attention, most say they think they should be looking at the teacher. It's ironic to think that sometimes looking at the teacher will mean a child will be able to remember less!

Visual Overload

Different Male and Female Intelligence? More from fMRI

UCI researchers find that men and women differ in the areas activated with intellectual skill. Men have more gray (neuron cell bodies), whereas women have more white (neuronal processes). Hmmmm.... Neuropsychologist Rex Jung suggests that may be why men excel more at local processing (logic, convergent thinking), where as women excel at divergent, association, and integrative activities - like language.

For those of you more familiar with the Myers Brigg Type Indicator, it called to mind the finding that 65% of men were predominant 'Thinker' (logic, deduction, impersonal meaning) types, whereas 65% of women were predominant 'Feeling' (values, personal meaning) types.

For school, an obvious question is whether strong differences also exist in childhood or adolescence. Women teachers tend to dominate K-12 classrooms - might this disadvantage boys for some types of learning?

Intelligence In Men And Women Is A Gray And White Matter

Friday, January 21, 2005

Different Pathways for Processing Math- Implications for Teaching Strategies

Dehaene and his group have published wonderful work on the neurobiology of mathematics. The research suggests that the brain is organized into distinct areas that consider numbers and number relationships, distinct from their verbal representations.

The paper below is a fascinating read, although technical. Based on varieties of evidence, unusual strokes in patients, epidemiological studies in students with math disabilities, and functional brain imaging, separate systems appear to exist different ways of performing basic math operations. This means that in the setting of disability or injury, difficulty in one area, may not necessarily mean difficulty in another.

For any teacher confronting the math struggles of a student, it would important to know that the activities of mental math, number comparison, estimation, and subtraction tend to cluster together, whereas exact calculation, rote memory of facts (stored in verbal memory), and multiplication form another cluster. It means that for a given student, it would be valuable to test which is the stronger route for processing, and then adjust the learning to that knowledge. So, some groups might take more readily to Mental Math, while Rote-Verbal-Story-Based apparoaches might form a different group.

Links for Math Strategies, Information about Dyscalculia

The last link is to the National Academy's online book - it's a bit tedious to turn pages online and wordy, but there are some pearls.

Learning Disabilities OnLine: LD In-Depth: Math Learning Disabilities
Math Strategies
National Academy's free online book How Students Learn- Mathematics

The Seattle Times: Education: What makes a good essay for SAT? That's hard to say

With some of the bad weather across the country, some students will be caught up in the transition to the new SAT with its writing section. The good news is that it looks like the logic of ideas will be valued about conventions, but students with a strong visual style or time issues may still have difficulty. It's a little concerning how fast the assessors have to read and quickly decide on the scoring of an essay...

The Seattle Times: Education: What makes a good essay for SAT? That's hard to say

Flashes from the Past: Another Real Childhood Biography

Who was this? As a boy, he was described as small, unkempt, and unattractive. He often went with his hair uncombed, and he was described as "uncommonly shy of grownups." He easily fell into tantrums and was thought to be unimaginative. As a teen he was a prominent member of the "Anti-Neighbors Society" which played practical jokes on unsuspecting victims like rigging buckets of water, exploding stinkbombs, and the like. He was also noted to become engrossed in books, scolding his sister with comments like: "You have no idea how interesting it is. I am learning the propagation of all sorts of waves!"

Can you guess? This was Enrico Fermi, the first person to split the atom, and the Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 1938. Despite his unpromising early life, he married, had a son and daughter, became a professor at the University of Chicago, and enjoyed mountaineering and winter sports.

Real childhood biographies are much more interesting than the watered-down versions in kids' books. We would all do well to remember that the real course of peoples' lives can be highly unpredictable. As parents or teachers, there may be many times when we need to remember to appeal to the "angels of a child's better virtues" than look too closely at the rough spots.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Critical thinking and Problem-Solving are important topics for everyone. All of us are faced with problems every day- and our ability to come up with alternative solutions, viewpoints, or possibilities may mean the difference between success or failure in learning, human relationships, practical living, and life's work.

So what is critical thinking and problem solving, really? Critical thinking involves looking at how we think with a critical and questioning eye. At its best, its an ideal Creative-Corporation, a marriage of "Suits" (Executive-CEO)and "Talent" (Creativity Director)- oriented to the bottom-line and goal-directed, but open to different possibilities and forming new solutions. Success in critical thinking and problem-solving requires skill at identifying problems, thinking about thinking, looking at limitations, generating new possibilities, and testing and analyzing outcome.

At the simplest level, children get practice with problem solving when they need to make choices. They practice with critical thinking when they look at their own work (or the work of others), and notice differences and form opinions. At highest levels, gifted critical thinkers and problem solvers take full advantage of all their brain resources: increasing their sensitivity and awareness of new ideas or facts, finding patterns through various modes of observing or thinking, combining different ideas, prioritizing and tossing out ideas, arriving at cohesive answers or theories, and critiquing results.

In every educational program, we need to find a way of providing opportunities for practice and strengthening of these steps. For some children with disabilities, a great deal of time needs to be spent scaffolding problem solving and choices, and providing practice in the process of decision-making. Some children appear to be intuitive problem-solvers, but others will need direct examples from others, scaffolding from their teachers, and step-by-step instruction.

Below are various critical thinking resources(including lesson plans) on the web. Also one old favorite for problem solving, we'd share with you- James Adam's Conceptual Blockbusting. Gets the gray matter firing overtime!

ICYouSee: T is for Thinking
Changing minds and persuasion -- How we change what others think, believe, feel and do
PESTS: Teaching Activities

BBC NEWS | Education | Learning to think the right way

Parents Make a Difference!

So why does it take a Harvard study to tell us this? Well, it's nice anyway to have these reminders. Your kids may not always thank you, but all the time you take with them has a huge impact on the people they become.

The Evaluation Exchange Evaluating Family Involvement Programs: Promising Practices - at the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP)

A lovely quote from Ansel Adams: "I often wonder at the strength and courage my father had in taking me out of the traditional school situation and providing me with these extraordinary learning experieces. I am certain he established the positive direction of my life that otherwise, given my native hyperactivity, could have been confused and catastropic. I trace who I am and the direction of my development to those years of growing up in our house on the dunes, propelled especially by an internal spark tenderly kept alive and glowing by my father."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Don't Talk Down to Your Kids- Complex Sentences are Good!

In this preschool study, the use of complex sentences (sentences with clauses - like "The boy likes the dog in the window, but it is not for sale) improved children's language development. The caveat for this, though, is in the presence of auditory processing disorders or specific language impairment. Always look to see if children are able to keep up with challenging ways of speech. If they can follow you,
you're building brain connections!

Research shows teacher and parent conversation important in child language development

Teaching Ideas for Late- and Reluctant Talking Children of All Ages

These are some great links to help children of all ages with conversational speaking The first link is just an abstract, but it describe a study which found the best way to stimulate grammatical complex sentences from children was to involve them in making stories. Talking while engaging in free play, resulted in the most words, but the sentences or comments were much briefer.

For children with significant language impairments, a little practice with all three might be good practice. The significant language challenge of back-and-forth conversation was also underscored in this report. Children witha significant degree of anxiety over speech difficulties may first gain confidence with speaking during play, then progressing onto more challenging tasks like thinking up a story, or talking about a favorite subject.

Different Ways to Stimulate Verbally Challenging Conversation

Apraxia Articles Index - Speech Therapy, Evaluation, Insurance, Education, and Other Topics

Caroline Bowen

Not Talking Yet?

The Talking Page

Year 2004 Tax Benefits for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities

Schwab Learning has posted their wonderful tax benefit article for 2004.

SchwabLearning.org - Year 2004 Tax Benefits for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities

Financial Assistance for Parents of Kids with LD and AD/HD

Another nice resource article about financial assistance for parents of LD kids.

SchwabLearning.org - Financial Assistance for Parents of Kids with LD and AD/HD

Children's Apnea Linked to Emotional Troubles

Children's sleep problems are woefully underdiagnosed, although they contribute significantly to emotional, attentional, and behavioral problems. Common childhood sleep disorders include apnea (for instance cause by enlarged tonsils) or 'restless legs'.

PsycPORT.com | Children's Apnea Linked to Emotional Troubles

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Seeing Emotional Activation By Music

Of course, we knew this had to be, but still it's fun to see: emotional areas of the brain like the limbic system are activated when subjects listened to pleasing music (never heard before). Scientists have used approaches like these to study the 'neurobiology of aesthetics'.

Seeing Emotional Activation By Music

Musical Minds

Music Therapy for Autism

This is a nice, but brief article by Dr. Staum about Music Therapy and Autism. Music can help reinforce the rhythms of speech and memory for words. For autistic children with auditory processing problems, music can extend their discrimination and frequency range of hearing.

Center for the Study of Autism

Music Therapy Ideas for Class or Home

Musical approaches to learning and therapy can be very valuable for verbal memory and language disorders. The first link below has some helpful learning ideas for improving communication, movement, basic academic skills, and daily routines. Because musical routes of memory and perception are different than language alone, music can be a way of bypassing language difficulties.

Coast Music Therapy Tips on using music for communication, math, literacy, and movement.

AUDIO MEMORY - You Never Forget What You Sing!

Music Helps Memory for Words, and Words Help Memory for Music

Researchers from the University of Montreal make a number of interesting comments about music and musical memory that may help some students and adults with memory difficulties. First, they note that musical memory often appears preserved over memory for text (a trick used by speech therapists in the rehabilitation of stroke patients), and second that words and music appear to prime each other to improve their memory. They were surprised to find that even with scrambling up of the sequences beneficial effects on memory. Somehow the overall structure of words or melody were preserved enough to be recognizeable.

For some children who have severe memory roadblocks, learning by music may be extremely valuable learning strategy.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Developmental Changes in Face Perception - Relevance to Autism or Aspergers Diagnoses?

This interesting paper found that children under the age of 10 tend to process faces by individual features, while those older than 10 tended to process facial features more as a whole. The fact that children younger than 10 normally have a piecemeal strategy is interesting because often a 7 or 8 year old's confusion over recognizing a classmate or description of a face by its parts, may be enough to land him in a high functioning autism group. In fact, prosopagnosia is very difficult to diagnose in children, so great care should be taken to consider how normal developmental may contribute to a child's reading of faces in social interactions.

Brain Activation during Face Perception: Evidence of a Developmental Change

Homeschooling at MIT

We are parents who also never thought they would be homeschooling. It was a difficult choice we made for one of our children 3 years ago, but it was the best decision we ever made. We still make decisions year-by-year, but we been grateful for the opportunity to see him grow in self confidence, build on his personal strengths, and challenge himself in areas of weakness. Twice exceptional or gifted children with challenges are a particularly well suited to school at home because they can be accelerated in areas of strength, take a wide range of above age level courses online in virtual classroom, use computers with assistive technology programs, and learn at their own pace and in their best mode of learning.

MIT homeschooling

Seeing Helps You Hear - Implications for Auditory Processing and Visual Disorders

When we see someone talking, our brain anticipates what's being said, so our auditory / listening pathways don't have to work as hard. This is why children with auditory processing disorders need to be seated close to the teacher, and why they sometimes need to told about watching lip movements. This close relationship between seeing and hearing also means that children with visual problems may appear to mishear or have to work very hard to keep up with listening and contributing to classroom discussions.

PhysOrg: Seeing While Hearing Speeds Brain's Processing of Speech

Educational Problems with Unilateral Hearing Loss

Even with mild hearing loss on one side, the consequences can be significant in school. 1/3 will repeat at least 1 grade, and up to 40% will need extra educational assistance. One surprising observation in this review was that problems resulted whether or not the one-sided hearing loss was mild or severe. Because the brain uses both ears to figure out where sound is coming from, and to focus hearing over background noise, unilateral hearing loss causes some children to look 'spacey' in the classroom and to be overwhelmed by busy and noisy environments.

School Problems with Unilateral Hearing Loss

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Different Ways to Visualize - Motor and Visual...Implications for Mirror Reversals

This neat little study showed that different pathways in the brain mediate visual rotation 'in your head' and visual rotation of 'your hand'. Subjects with various brain injuries could have impaired imagery by one pathway, but not by the other. Some children with birth or other injuries may have damage to one pathway, but not to the other. Sometimes a child with stubborn letter reversal problems (as in dyslexia) may correct by one imagery strategy (e.g. visual) but not the other (e.g. kinesthetic).

Effects of Strategies on Mental Rotation

Visual Processing: Much More Than Vision

In a series of sophisticated experiments, Steve Lisberger and colleagues showed that movements of the eyes keep time. When following a predictable moving target, the brain learns what to expect, so it anticipates what will come next. The brain appears to keep time with eye movements by taking note of the distance covered by the eyes and its speed.

Pretty amazing stuff, this pacemaker in moving eyes. It also tells you why timing and coordinated movements are so abnormal in children with apparently mild eye movement abnormalities or amblyopia. It also tells us why visual problems present with "much more than eyes."

The second link below is neat article showing how lazy eye begets lazy brain. The brain registers visual information differently in people with lazy eye or significantly 'uneven' acuities (anisometropia). One more recent study found that altered motion processing occurs on the side of the 'lazy brain'. That definitely makes it harder to catch a ball.

Exploring the brain's internal stopwatch
Lazy eye causes lazy brain

Brain Power for the Future: Brain-Computer Interfaces

Pretty wild stuff - patients who had implantable brain grids (for epilepsy) were able to operate a video game by triggering the grid. Brain computer interfaces are also being studied to help disabled people communicate or use prostheses (upcoming in Nature Neuroscience Reviews).

Human subjects play mind games

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Is the Hallmark of Autism - Bad Out of Sync?

Just's work builds on other studies that have shown severe alterations in the sensory and motor maps in the brains of subjects with high functioning autism. Selective functions may be preserved, but there is greater difficulty coordinating different functions and matching responses to stimuli.

Because the rule of the brain is reorganization in response to injury, scientists need to be careful making conclusions about cause. Are the sensory-motor mismatches primary problems in autism, or secondary effects resulting from the brain trying to recovery from injury?

Psychology Today: Out of Sync?

The Right Environments for Creativity - Being Alone and Driving?

Everybody needs somebody, but not when you're trying to think of something new! So, 66% of people think their best ideas occur in solitude, and 20% think their best ideas come while driving.

If creativity requires recombination of the conscious and unconscious, ideal situations might be at the border between wakefulness and sleep, or alert, but doing some 'automatic function' like freeway driving, jogging, playing an instrument, or listening to music. If we want children to develop their talents and experience with creative thinking, we have to give them enough time to be alone and be 'unbusy.'

Gridlock unlocks brain's potential

Visual Aspects of Dyslexia

More research dissecting out the visual processing problems in dyslexia. Many people are surprised to hear dyslexia described as a sensory processing disorder, but dyslexia causes difficulties in both sight and sound discrimination - and these are the main 'senses' that are affected. It's not a matter of not seeing or hearing completely, but rather a jumbling up of letters while reading, or sounds while listening.

In this country, the current tide has swept over to phonics, but children with mixed visual-auditory dyslexia or visual-predominant dyslexia may be left out by this exclusive approach. Although Dr. Eden at Georgetown has published some work on the brain-based visual processing problems in dyslexia, most of the work has been in Europe or Australia.

This new work is nice to see from USC. It's just the beginning, but it provides a model for figuring out why visual distraction can be such a problem among some dyslexics.

Visual Distraction and Dyslexia

Friday, January 14, 2005

Focusing Attention with Meditation and Biofeedback - Cool Product for Home Computer

More fascinating results combining the ancient and the modern- Davidson's work studying meditating monks shows enhanced levels of brain organization and focus. What could this mean for children with attentional problems or sensory distractions? Potentially a great deal. The dilemma for many children is that have difficulty controlling their emotions and direction of focus. With biofeedback that provides a visual picture of their responses and attention, many children learn to control their alertness and focus better.

The problem has been the high cost, lack of insurance coverage, and need for periodic re-visits. But we just found out about a exciting new solution to this dilemma, though...we bought a software biofeedback product that can be used on your home computer (
Wild Divine)-it's pretty amazing...everyone in the family tried it, and as expected, we were all quite different in being able to focus, increase our level of alertness, and calm ourselves. We'll post more updates as we look into it further. It's a lot cheaper than traditional biofeedback and other home-based biofeedback programs. Better home-based neurolearning programs are long overdue. If you investigate this program, be aware that it does have 'New Age-y' motifs and graphics. It is really innovative in its approach though, and it is a great addition to the attention-biofeedback arsenal.
Meditation and fMRI

Believing You Can Get Smarter Makes You Smarter

We should never forget this point. We came across this paper today while surfing the Net. There are great controversies today about the learning disabilities 'label'. The label is not important, but getting an appropriate education and accommodations is. We need to have an educational process which looks at each individual's strengths and difficulties, builds on their strengths, and teaches them strategies for overcoming difficulties. Share brain research with your students. Show them 'before' and 'after' pictures of learning. Optimism and tenacity are powerful forces in education.

Believing You Can Get Smarter Makes You Smarter

Gifted Math - Whole Brain Learning

The evolving story from the brain imaging of gifted learners is that giftedness involves 'whole brain' learning - coordination of multiple areas - analysis, planning, visual-spatial imagery, fact retrieval, and associations - for problem-solving.
Article
Research Paper

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Learning Disabilities and Business Success

Because entrepreneurialism often doesn't take place in school, parents and teachers should look and foster for these strengths in their school aged children with LD. Business interests involving the computer may be particularly well matched to LDs.

ADD in the Corner Office: Five Top Executives
Learning Disabilities OnLine
DYSLEXIA: A COMMON LEARNING DISABILITY
Are dyslexia and wealth linked?

Boys fall behind girls in grades - 01/13/05

The much higher rates of school failure among boys is disturbing. Some language processing is more lateralized (on one side of the brain) in boys, so at least some boys may be more vulnerable with birth stress or injury. To date, gender preferences in learning for school-aged children have not been well studied. Hopefully these dire statistics will catalyze additional studies in this area.
Boys fall behind girls in grades - 01/09/05
Gender as a Factor in Special Education Eligibility
Do women really have more bilateral language representation than men?
Men Do Hear -- But Differently Than Women

No Child Left Behind: New High School Initiative Announced

Today President Bush announced the High School Initiative which will set standards for high school diplomas and particularly impact Reading, Math, and Science. AP and IB programs will expand, and State Scholars program will be established. The goals of increasing student achievement are good, but if proper accommodations are not provided for students with disabilities, then many of these students will unfairly penalized.

Bush outlines high school student plans
Transforming the Federal Role in Education

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Bilingual Brains

Children who learn a second language before the age of 5 have more brain gray matter in their language areas than those who only learn a single language. Also, some studies have shown that bilingual people have more rapid visual discrimination and processing than monolingual-matched controls. But bilingual students are also grossly under-identified in gifted and talented programs, and many bilingual students may fail to get specialized language help in school because of confusion over the possible contribution of the two languages. Bilingualism is just another difference that we need to consider in neurolearning and educational design, but are understanding of their implications is in its infancy.

BBC NEWS Health Learning languages 'boosts brain'

Learning Disability or Language Development Issue?

Meeting the Needs of Gifted and Talented Minority Language Students. ERIC Digest

SFA - Stuttering and the Bilingual Child

Mind Your Grammar: First the Pattern, Then the Rule

This study visualizes grammar learning. We first understand why words are put into a particular order because we recognize similarities between word locations and meaning in other sentences. We pick up most of our grammar this way...just by immersion, rather than being taught rules. Children with auditory processing difficulties may have difficulty with this approach though, because they may drop out words and miss details frequently in ordinary conversational speech. For them, visual examples (text, sentence diagramming) need to be given, and patterns recognized before the information begins to condense as a 'rule'. The second link below is one of our favorite grammar resources on the web.


Grammar and the Brain

OWL Handouts: Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling



Train Your Brain! Cardiovascular Fitness Improves Attention and Executive Control

Cardiovascular fitness, cortical plasticity, and aging

Cognitive and Emotional Teaching in Social Skills Education

Because there are different brain regions for cognitive (taking another point of view) and emotional (feeling with another person) empathy, injuries can result in impairments in one and not the other.

If emotional empathy pathways are impaired, impose a highly structured cognitive empathy program beginning at a young age -for home and for school. Remember the saying in Lawrence of Arabia: "With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the most reliable." Some parents may exhaust themselves in battles with their children, trying to appeal to the emotional side of a child's empathy, but some children may really have broken pathways. Cognitive empathy can make up for a lot, as long as it is backed up by constant practice so that it becomes a part of a child's character.

Adolescence: The teaching of empathy for high school and college students: testing Rogerian methods with the interpersonal reactivity index

APA Public Communications: What Makes Kids Care?

Entrez PubMed

The caring child: How to teach empathy

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Amazing Brain: Virtual Rehabilitation & the Ultimate in Metacognition

If the last decade was Decade of the Brain, this Decade is the Decade of Brain Power. Some interesting articles for you: First, imagery-guided rehabilitation - when ordinary rehabilitation failed to produce any improvement, virtual training (imagery training) combined with usual rehabilitation resulted in further recovery from a stroke. Second, how real-time functional brain imaging allowed subjects to learn a spatial task better when they were able to see what patterns of brain activation were being seen in their brains. The test subjects showed benefit only if they receive special training about what pattern of their brain activation was desireable.

Imagery and metacognition is not just for poets anymore. Understanding our personal wiring and the biology of our thinking will help us all over obstacles and live more fully.

Cerebral and cerebellar sensorimotor plasticity following motor imagery-based mental practice of a sequential movement

Gabrieli PubMed Abstract

Automatic Learning and the Cerebellum

There are many things we take for granted, but when something goes wrong we see how important they were all along. The mighty cerebellum is essential for many aspects of 'automatic' learning - playing the piano or typing fast, or returning a serve on the tennis court faster than you can think to 'swing'.

The "little voice in your head" under the cerebellum's command. Many of us need that "little voice" to keep information in mind when we're hearing too much at once...as we repeat it back to ourselves it gets embedded more deeply into our memory. Sometimes improving a child's speech articulation can also improve what she remembers because "the little voice" in her head becomes more automatic, and she can use as a back-up memory system.

Many children with individual wiring difficulties or symptoms of 'sensory processing' problems may have cerebellar problems that seem mild, but they may be still bad enough to make it difficult to balance on a bike, write by hand, or carry a tray across a crowded lunchroom. These children may try to compensate cognitively (it's not automatic), but they are often memory overloaded and they become exhausted over the course of the day.

Entrez PubMed



ON THE SPECIFIC ROLE OF THE CEREBELLUM IN MOTOR LEARNING AND

The Benefits of Distraction

Two articles here to remind us that distraction is not always a 'bad thing'. Distraction by counting resulted in less pain perception in the first article (isn't that why we do Lamaze?), and in the second, deaf signers were found to be more sensitive to motion (distraction if unwanted) off to the right. For the deaf signers, the advantages of being sensitive to motion for communication is obvious.

fMRI of Attention to Somatosensory Stimulation

Cool Link for Dyslexia & High School / College

Check out the other sites within the World of Dyslexia Ring too.

Thanks, Kristine!

Dyslexia College - Dyslexia University - dyslexic student - dyslexia student

Monday, January 10, 2005

Emotions, Rewards, and Getting the Job Done

Immediate gratification is characterized by higher emotional (limbic) system activation, and decisions are made when the emotional brain battles with more analytical areas for control. Interestingly, emotional brain is not just a 'nuisance' sabotaging control by the analytical brain. The sequence of brain activation following emotional activation suggests that emotions activate working memory areas (motivation!) to help the work get done.

Pathways in Human Brain, October 15, 2004 Press Release - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The neural system that bridges reward and cognition in humans: An fMRI study -- Pochon et al. 99 (8): 5669 -- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Flashes from the Past: Real Childhood Biographies

Who was this? "I cannot say that I looked back upon my life at a Public School with any sensations of pleasure, or that any earthly consideration would induce me to go through my three years again." He was the 3rd of 11 children, gifted, sensitive, eager, but handicapped from an early age, not only by his stammer but also by deafness in his right ear from infantile fever. He wrote little notes of advice for his younger siblings like:"Don't dream" and "Never stew your sister." He entertained his family with puppet shows and magic tricks and kept snails as pets. From the biography link below: "His early academic career veered between high octane promise, and irresistible distraction. Through his own laziness, he failed an important scholarship..." Can you tell? This was Charles Dodgson, or Lewis Carroll, author of Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and Mathematician Lecturer at Oxford.

http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/landow/victorian/authors/carroll/bio1.html

Sensory-Motor Virtual Reality Program Improves Stroke Recovery

The research report shows how a virtual reality projection coupled with sensory and motor feedback helped a stroke victim recover from arm weakness and poor coordination. The advantage of the system was that it allowed complex movements to be monitored and challenged incrementally, coordinating hand-eye and sensory-motor functions. Both strength and fine motor coordination improved.


Entrez PubMed Abstract

Children, Computers, and Video Games- What Are They Learning?

One in four 5-year olds uses the Internet. 90% of kids ages 5 to 17 are using the computer. Things are changing, but what's for the better and what's for the worse?

Children who had access to a computer performed better on school readiness and cognitive development tests, controlling for developmental stage and socioeconomic status. Boys tended to be better at computer games than girls (and had more practice), and when playing a novel game, boys, but not girls tended to try to figure out problems independently rather than asking for help.

Violent games do appear to influence children, and the research is cautionary: Younger children (4th-5th grade) with little exposure to 'real violence' or social stressors, were not more aggressive than non violent-video gamers, but the did appear to have lower levels of empathy. More worrisome trends were noticed in high schoolers who played violent games: they did have higher levels of aggression, were more likely to be involved in physical fights, and performed more poorly in school.

WINK-TV Southwest Florida's News Leader

Entrez PubMed

Entrez PubMed



Sunday, January 09, 2005

Letter-by-Letter Reading from the Right Hemisphere

Some children with dyslexia and others with birth injury may only be able to read letter-by-letter. This link is to a pdf article.

http://www.unicog.org/publications/cohen_lblreading_neuropsychologia_2004.pdf

Novel and Associational Learning Part 2 : What Are the Implications for Teaching?

We're still thinking about the article about novelty and associational learning posted yesterday (January 8, 2005), and think it might be interesting to consider what it means for teaching. We need to think of 'Novelty Learning' not as negative trait, but rather a purposeful route of learning that may be highly developed in some people. A child who seems capable only of learning with he's highly interested or emotionally moved by a subject, may actually be a strong Novelty Learner, and a perhaps more artistic, inventive, and creative one at that. Novelty learning is not just what is left over when routine attention cannot be sustained. Specific and distinct brain pathways exist for discovery and noticing novelty (they are activated when two stimuli are brought together and highly incongruous), and these are very different from pathways that learn by repetition, deduction, or incremental knowledge. Novelty learning is what powers paradigm shifts or revolutionary ideas, and so it has been a fundamental part of all disciplines and critical in the advancement of all disciplines.

So what would teaching look like if we were to present information to these learners? Well, it might be a kind of 'backward' teaching of a rule or concept by showing the exception or "surprise" rather than a direct rule. This might mean teaching kindergarteners about seeing and perception by studying optical illusions, or middle school students, scientific principles by studying unexpected results in the science lab. Teaching for novelty may not be easy, but it does sound fun. There are various articles on brain-based pathways of novelty. We've added another one below.

http://cercor.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/full/9/4/379

Why Math is Hard...

Multi-stepped math can be hard because it requires a complex coordination of many different brain areas. When 2-digit multiplication is performed (23 x 34), 4 different lobes of the brain must coordinate activity involving math fact retrieval (usually stored in word representations), calculations, working memory, and long term memory.

Abstract: Neural Networks in Math

Dyscalculia

Math and the Brain


Early Social and Emotional Teaching Pays Off Big Into Early Adulthood

This is a wonderful study which showing that cognitive and social skills training (including cooperation training, problem-solving) each year in grades 1 through 6 in 'at risk' urban schools had across-the-board benefits in improving work or school function and social and emotional health, while reducing the likelihood of criminal activity or substance abuse.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med -- Promoting Positive Adult Functioning Through Social Development Intervention in Childhood: Long-term Effects From the Seattle Social Development Project, January 2005, Hawkins et al. 159 (1): 25

65 percent of children have had an imaginary companion

Most children have a very rich imaginative life, and grownups often only get a partial view. We recall an older study asking children about 'imaginary worlds', and at that time were surprised to learn that the average age of children who played in imaginary worlds was 9 years old (that seemed pretty old)!

Nowadays, that age may have crept a great deal higher as fantasy literature and video and computer games have become so popular.


65 percent of children have had an imaginary companion

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Different Brain Mechanisms of Empathy

Taking another person's point of view (cognitive empathy) and feeling another person's point of view (emotional empathy) can be distinguished by anatomical studies in the brain. The difference may be important for some children because it may tell us that one approach is likely to be more effective than another.

Empathy

Adult Correction of Dyslexia

It's never too late! Eden and her group at Georgetown show how the reading performances and brain patterns of dyslexia can be corrected using multisensory strategies (Lindamood Bell's method combines phonics, air writing, speaking, and visual imagery). All of these studies have exciting implications for adults. As long as we have the right guide, we can help drive our wiring.

You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader for this pdf file.
http://csl.georgetown.edu/publications/NEURON_intervention_04_eden_et_al.pdf

Practice, practice, practice: The genius of musicians, atheletes, and mathematicians

Restak's chapter excerpt talks about the neurobiology of 'flow'. When we practice, practice, practice, we drive our brain wiring to make movements and analytical processing "automatic". By mastering the nuts and bolts of performance with neuronal efficiency, experts can then move onto the finer things of their art.

The New Brain

Associative Learning, Novelty, and Reward- A Different Learning Style?

Some children and adults appear to have a strong associational learning style. They seem attracted by novelty, thrive on a personal connection to the material, and appear to be highly independent thinkers. Some educators have connected these traits to "attention deficit disorders", but Turner and colleagues at the University of Cambridge have at least found that the front part of the brain (an area often implicated as being faulty in ADD) is very necessary for this style of thinking. The positives of associational thinking are creativity and flexibility. The negatives are distraction and disorganization. We found this study to be thought provoking because scientists saw the greatest flare in activity when the brain was surprised by the unexpected pairing of two objects. Rather than associational learning being a tedious random process of repeated trial-and-error, it was a system made a prediction early, but then was also prepared to learn the most from the biggest surprise.

The Role of the Lateral Frontal Cortex in Causal Associative Learning: Exploring Preventative and Super-learning -- Turner et al., 10.1093/cercor/bhh046 -- Cerebral Cortex

Friday, January 07, 2005

Autism Spectrum Disorders : Why Does It Take 5 to10 Minutes to Make A Diagnosis?

Child Nett.tv has streaming videos and interviews and it's a wonderful effort to provide more information about autism from the Dan Marino Foundation. But one neurologist interviewed in a segment admitted he needed only an hour clinic visit to get a full clinical history from the parents, examine the child, and then make his diagnosis. We know this is the norm rather than the exception. But we have to ask, why is it that physicians take so little time so little time to make "The Diagnosis"?

In fact, we have heard physicians counsel, "it takes only 5 to 10 minutes to make the diagnosis, but months to understand the disease..." , referring to the 5 to 10 minute Gilliam Autism Rating Scale to make the diagnosis, but what is really going on here? We want to trigger a little soul searching on this point. It takes time to establish a relationship with a child, to see him play, to see how he uses language, to see how he can be drawn out, to see how he interacts with you and others, and to figure out how his individual nervous system is wired. Brain-based processing cues are complex and difficult to sort out. Is he missing visual cues because of eye movement or perceptual problems? Could there be a peripheral or central (brain-based) auditory processing deficit? How are his needs being expressed? What is he missing?

We know it's very important to identify children who need help, but before we sign this child up for self-contained classes, intensive behavioral therapy, or a psychiatric medication trial, shouldn't we figure out more about what's going on? The rates for the diagnosis of autism are skyrocketing (as high as 1 in 250 children by some reports) and from academic centers and parent support groups we have heard calls for earlier ages of diagnosis. But before we hasten to provide the solutions, we must ask, have we accurately identified the problems?

Welcome to Childnett.tv

Early Learning Has Lasting Effects

What you're doing really makes a difference. This is another study showing that early flexible experiences make alternative pathways that persist and are available into adulthood.

HON - News : Early Learning Has Lasting Effects

Personal Memory - More Than Facts

Memory for something that you've lived and experienced in the past is encoded more richly in the brain than a simple fact about yourself. Autobiographical personal memory can often be a strong resource for stories and writing, but also it can be useful for helping memory. If you read the article about superior memory posted in an earlier blog, it mentioned a strategy for remembering rote material by visualizing it then pretending to place it at different points along a well-known path from your past. It's with this strategy that simple fact memory can be augmented. It's fused with the rich associative world of personal autobiographical memory. Sometimes if a child has fairly severe memory difficulties, this kind of strategy can be used to help memory. In fact some preferential kinesthetic learners may not be 'motor' or procedural learners, but rather very personal ones.

The Functional Neuroanatomy of Episodic and Semantic Autobiographical Remembering: A Prospective Functional MRI Study -- Levine et al. 16 (9): 1633 -- The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Developmental Changes in Conversational Speech

This article (abstract below) reviewed some noteworthy and practical aspects of the development of childhood conversational ability. With direct questioning, 2 years olds tend to like to answer 'yes' to virtually all yes or no questions - even if the questions themselves were incomprehensible. By 3, a transition seemed to be underway, so that by 4 or 5, comprehensible questions were being answered accurately, but incomprehensible questions were not (they tended to always get the answer "No"). At all ages children are reluctant to say they didn't know the answer even if they were told that such a response was acceptable. Many children also tended to abandon some of their correct answers for questions if context suggested otherwise or the examiner seemed satisfied by a different answer. Children can be difficult test...

ScienceDirect - Trends in Cognitive Sciences : Conceptual development and conversational understanding

What Huh? It May Be Auditory Working Memory

Children with limited ability to keep auditory information in mind (auditory working memory) may appear to have "ADD" although they really have limited space to keep auditory information 'in mind'. The study below shows the extra demands on auditory working memory when sentence structure becomes more complex. Children with this difficulty present with attention problems in upper elementary, middle, or high school because the language demands of classroom lectures have increased. Often these children can improve their performance dramatically with Teachers Notes and being allowed to bring textbooks home.

Neural Correlates of Syntactic Ambiguity in Sentence Comprehension for Low and High Span Readers -- Fiebach et al. 16 (9): 1562 -- The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience