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Visual Dictionary in the Brain

June 12, 2012

Exciting new research from Georgetown University Medical Center
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Pesticide Exposure in Womb Linked to Low IQ

April 21, 2011


USA Today published an article today about research linking low IQ and pesticide exposure in the womb.  The study was conducted by UC Berkeley, Columbia University, and Mt. Sinai Medical School in NY.

The study found that children most heavily exposed to pesticides scored an average of 7 points lower on IQ tests.  By contrast, brain damage caused by exposure to lead only drops IQ scores by 2-3 points on average.

"Pesticide exposure after birth wasn't linked to lower intelligence scores, suggesting that the harm caused by the chemicals is greatest during early pregnancy, when the brain is developing."

"Earlier studies have linked the specific type of bug killer included in these studies, organophosphate pesticides, with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)."

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Weight Loss Improves Memory

April 21, 2011


A study at Kent State University concludes that "weight loss may improve concentration and overall cognitive ability."  Turns out, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is good for us after all.  ;-)

Scientists have known for a while that obesity comes with many problems including increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and memory and concentration problems.  This study was done to determine if the opposite is true, that memory and other cognitive skills can be improved by reversing obesity.

It makes sense that a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet teeming with fruits and vegetables, adequate hydration, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep improves brain function.  I think most of us have experienced this.

What's not so easy is to be in the habit of practicing a healthy lifestyle.

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The Information Superhighway in Your Head

April 20, 2011


Microscopically, your brain resembles a pot of spaghetti-with-branches that look kind of like broccoli, like broccoli noodles.  These neurons are long and stringy; they have many branches like a piece of broccoli; they connect with other interlaced neuronal branches in thousands of locations called synapses; and, they transmit information causally by electrical and chemical impulses.

To give you an idea of the complexity and interconnectedness of the human brain, there are over 100 billion neurons in it with as many as 10,000 connections each.  That means, there are over 1 quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) neuronal connections in your head.

If your neurons are functioning properly, when they are stimulated, they fire automatically and they in turn stimulate other neurons they are connected to.

Neurons can be clumped together in functional areas (i.e. where word recognition takes place or vocabulary or comprehension or memories, etc.) or they can be strung between these functional areas to transmit information between them.

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Putting the Cart in Front of the Horse

April 19, 2011


There are a couple of areas related to reading where people seem to confuse cause and effect and rather than finding effective solutions that deal with the cause, they implement ineffective solutions that deal with the effect.

 

An example of this is working on cognitive reading skills when the motor and sensory reading skills are not functioning properly.  Another example is the thinking that we can fix reading difficulties merely by reading more.

 

To read better, people first need to work to improve their motor and sensory reading skills, then the cognitive skills if necessary.  Once proper reading skills are in place, reading more occurs naturally because it is easier and it is stimulating.

 

Address the underlying cause of a problem and the problem goes away.  Only address the effect and the underlying problem remains.

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Supercharging Your Brain Without Make-Believe

April 18, 2011


I went to see the movie Limitless starring Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro.  It is the story about a guy whose life has peaked at low level of achievement who is given a drug that supercharges his brain so that he can learn anything and everything very quickly. 

This make-believe drug supercharges his ability to absorb information.  It is interesting that when they portray him consuming this amazing amount of information, it seems unlike reading because the information flows effortlessly through his eyes into his brain.  Of course, only super-humans with make-believe drugs could possibly do that, right?. 

As he learns more and more, he becomes wealthier and more powerful.  At least, they made a clear connection between knowledge and wealth and power.  The more you know, the better able you are to spot trends and take advantage of them.

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Sticker Shock!

April 2, 2011

The other night, I was on my way out the door to walk the dog when I bumped into my neighbor.  Nick asked me what I was up to so I told him about the launch of RPS and our efforts to connect with education leaders across the country.

As I explained the nuts and bolts of the science behind RPS, he told me that his grandson had been diagnosed by a doctor with severe motor skill problems that were affecting his reading performance.

Nick told me the treatment for his grandson cost $7,000!

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Why Some People Read and Others Don't

March 30, 2011

People for whom reading is easy read a lot.  People for whom reading is difficult don't. This creates two classes of people, the informed and the under-informed.
 

The informed are on track for success in life.  The under-informed are on track for a difficult life.
 

I recently met a principal at a conference who told me, "We need to start kids with this kind of remediation tool (RPS) earlier because by the time they are in the fourth grade they have already figured out whether or not they are going to be successful in school and those who are not are joining gangs."

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