Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Erika Hayasaki surveys the developing body of research on how poverty and deprivation affect a child's long-term brain development:
Early results show a troubling trend: Kids who grow up with higher levels of violence as a backdrop in their lives, based on MRI scans, have weaker real-time neural connections and interaction in parts of the brain involved in awareness, judgment, and ethical and emotional processing.
...Though it’s still largely based on correlations between brain patterns and particular environments, the research points to a disturbing conclusion: Poverty and the conditions that often accompany it—violence, excessive noise, chaos at home, pollution, malnutrition, abuse and parents without jobs—can affect the interactions, formation and pruning of connections in the young brain.

Two recent influential reports cracked open a public conversation on the matter. In one, researchers found that impoverished children had less gray matter—brain tissue that supports information processing and executive behavior—in their hippocampus (involved in memory), frontal lobe (involved in decision making, problem solving, impulse control, judgment, and social and emotional behavior) and temporal lobe (involved in language, visual and auditory processing and self-awareness). Working together, these brain areas are crucial for following instructions, paying attention and overall learning—some of the keys to academic success.
The second key study, published in Nature Neuroscience , also in 2015 , looked at 1,099 people between ages 3 and 20, and found that children with parents who had lower incomes had reduced brain surface areas in comparison to children from families bringing home $150,000 or more a year.

“We have [long] known about the social class differences in health and learning outcomes,” says Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. But neuroscience has now linked the environment, behavior and brain activity—and that could lead to a stunning overhaul of both educational and social policies, like rethinking Head Start–style programs that have traditionally emphasized early literacy. New approaches, he says, could focus on social and emotional development as well, since science now tells us that relationships and interactions with the environment sculpt the areas of the brain that control behavior (like the ability to concentrate), which also can affect academic achievement (like learning to read). 
- Adria Vasil discusses the worldwide trend of water being made available first (and for inexplicably low prices) to for-profit bottlers over citizens who need it. And Martin Regg Cohn examines how the story is playing out in Ontario in particular.

- Mike De Souza reports on how the National Energy Board, rather than acting as a neutral regulator, misled Denis Coderre to try to take free PR for both the NEB itself and fossil fuel development in general. And Carrie Tait points out how the Husky oil spill is raising questions about Saskatchewan's fully captured regulatory system. 

- Ian MacLeod reports on a sudden and unexplained increase in CSE interception of private communications.

- Finally, Andray Domise discusses what Colten Boushie's shooting and its aftermath say about the blight of racism in Canada.

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