Tag: science (page 1 of 6)

Your brain rewires itself after age 40

I turn 42 later this year, and this would explain a lot. Not in terms of me being unable to be super-efficient and productive, but just in terms of seeing connections everywhere.

In a systematic review recently published in the journal Psychophysiology, researchers from Monash University in Australia swept through the scientific literature, seeking to summarize how the connectivity of the human brain changes over our lifetimes. The gathered evidence suggests that in the fifth decade of life (that is, after a person turns 40), the brain starts to undergo a radical “rewiring” that results in diverse networks becoming more integrated and connected over the ensuing decades, with accompanying effects on cognition.

[…]

Early on, in our teenage and young adult years, the brain seems to have numerous, partitioned networks with high levels of inner connectivity, reflecting the ability for specialized processing to occur. That makes sense, as this is the time when we are learning how to play sports, speak languages, and develop talents. Around our mid-40s, however, that starts to change. Instead, the brain begins becoming less connected within those separate networks and more connected globally across networks. By the time we reach our 80s, the brain tends to be less regionally specialized and instead broadly connected and integrated.

[…]

“During the early years of life, there is a rapid organization of functional brain networks. A further refinement of the functional networks then takes place until around the third and fourth decade of life. A multi-faceted interplay of potentially harmful and compensatory changes can follow in aging,” the reviewers concluded.

Source: The brain undergoes a great “rewiring” after age 40 | Big Think

Yes, parenting matters

Parenting is the hardest job I have ever had. It never stops, and I seldom think I’m doing a good job at it.

That’s why it can be comforting to see ‘scientific studies’ indicate that it doesn’t really matter how you parent, in the long-run. The trouble is, as this article shows, that’s not actually true.

We can’t experimentally reassign children to different parents — we’re not monsters, and please don’t call to offer us your teenager — but sometimes real life does that anyway. Here’s an example: some Korean adoptees were assigned to American adopters by a queueing system which was essentially random. So there was no correlation between adoptees’ and parents’ genes. Yet, adoptees assigned to better educated families became significantly better educated themselves. Adopters made a difference in other ways too: for instance, mothers who drank were about 20% more likely to have an adoptive child who drank. This can’t be genetics. It must be something about the environment these parents provided. Other adoption studies reach similar conclusions.

More evidence comes from the grim events of death and divorce. If your parent dies while you are very young, you end up less like that parent, in terms of education, than otherwise. Again, that can’t be genetics. And children of parents who divorce become more like the parent they stay with. In other words, when parents spend time with their children, their behaviours and values rub off.

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The bottom line is this: how much and what you say to your child from their first few days literally carves new paths in their brain. We know this from research on speech development. When mothers responded to their babies’ cues with the most basic vocalisations, they accelerated their children’s language development. So go ahead and babble along with your toddler.

Source: No wait stop it matters how you raise your kids | Wyclif’s Dust

5 main concerns of top scientists about the relaxing of UK Covid restrictions

This warning to the UK government with the ‘five main concerns’ of top scientists is quite concerning.

First, unmitigated transmission will disproportionately affect unvaccinated children and young people who have already suffered greatly. Official UK Government data show that as of July 4, 2021, 51% of the total UK population have been fully vaccinated and 68% have been partially vaccinated. Even assuming that approximately 20% of unvaccinated people are protected by previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, this still leaves more than 17 million people with no protection against COVID-19. Given this, and the high transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, exponential growth will probably continue until millions more people are infected, leaving hundreds of thousands of people with long-term illness and disability. This strategy risks creating a generation left with chronic health problems and disability, the personal and economic impacts of which might be felt for decades to come.

Second, high rates of transmission in schools and in children will lead to significant educational disruption, a problem not addressed by abandoning isolation of exposed children (which is done on the basis of imperfect daily rapid tests). The root cause of educational disruption is transmission, not isolation. Strict mitigations in schools alongside measures to keep community transmission low and eventual vaccination of children will ensure children can remain in schools safely This is all the more important for clinically and socially vulnerable children. Allowing transmission to continue over the summer will create a reservoir of infection, which will probably accelerate spread when schools and universities re-open in autumn.

Third, preliminary modelling data9 suggest the government’s strategy provides fertile ground for the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants. This would place all at risk, including those already vaccinated, within the UK and globally. While vaccines can be updated, this requires time and resources, leaving many exposed in the interim. Spread of potentially more transmissible escape variants would disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged in our country and other countries with poor access to vaccines.

Fourth, this strategy will have a significant impact on health services and exhausted health-care staff who have not yet recovered from previous infection waves. The link between cases and hospital admissions has not been broken, and rising case numbers will inevitably lead to increased hospital admissions, applying further pressure at a time when millions of people are waiting for medical procedures and routine care.

Fifth, as deprived communities are more exposed to and more at risk from COVID-19, these policies will continue to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable and marginalised, deepening inequalities.

Source: Mass infection is not an option: we must do more to protect our young | The Lancet