Please Explain: Children's Brains

Friday, October 14, 2011

Neuroscientists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang discuss how a child’s brain develops, from conception to college, looking at language learning, sleep problems, gender differences, and behavior issues. They debunk myths and look at the factors that matter—and those that don’t—in children’s brain development. They’re the co-authors of Welcome to Your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College.

How well do you know your child's brain? Take this quiz to find out!


Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang

Comments [25]

john from franklin nj

Are these the people who said that the 100 most common words spoken to children are animal names? I'm looking for original data on that. Can they help? I heard it on WNYC on 6 November, a Sunday afternoon.

Dec. 02 2011 01:43 PM
Sam Wang from Princeton, NJ

Hi. Sam Wang here, one of the authors who appeared on "Please Explain." I'm sorry we ran out of time. Answers to a few of the questions below:

Dan from New York, research shows that ADHD (a) has genetic roots, (b) is also driven by environmental causes (especially before birth) and social expectations, and (c) might be overdiagnosed in some places. ADHD is a problem in which brain mechanisms for controlling attention have not developed according to the same timetable that they do in other children. In most cases, ADHD dissipates by adulthood. There are two treatments that appear to be effective: Ritalin and neurofeedback. This is all detailed in our book, Welcome To Your Child's Brain.

Karen Greene from Orangeburg, NY, is correct about night terrors. Her statements echo what we said: they are not true dreams.

Melissa from Montclair, depression most often arises after puberty, but the signs could potentially be detected earlier.

JayR, babies have an innate response to facial symmetry, which adults find attractive as well.

PhD from NY, in the public discussion of neurodevelopmental disorders there has been much focus on vaccines. However, I recommend that you take a broader look at recent research that reveals factors that are of greater proven risk. The two most notable factors are severe prenatal stress and preterm birth. In the latter case, improved care for preterm babies has led to increased survival rates -- but also more problems that need to be addressed. Related to this: one cause of preterm birth is unnecessary early induction, which is done for as many as 1 in 10 births in the United States, and increases the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders. This is all in our book.

Oct. 16 2011 08:38 PM
Melissa from Brooklyn

@Alejandro -- as the mom of 2 boys with autism, I think it's important that you take your child's doctor's concerns very seriously. If your son has any delays (language or otherwise) an evaluation through early intervention may help pinpoint those issues and provide services to help with them. You do know your child best, but as parents we often are blind to potential issues our children have. My son, when he was 1 (and 2 and 8), was very empathetic and sensitive to others feelings, but he is most definitely on the autism spectrum.
Anyway, best of luck to you & your family.

Oct. 14 2011 08:26 PM
jetset from ny

Lise Elliots book, Whats going on in there is also a great resource and studies of the brain confirm and underscores the benefits of attachment parenting:
skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, nighttime parenting (eg not doing "Cry it out") and the positive effects on the childs brain with the endorphins that are encouraged with gentle kindness.

Oct. 14 2011 02:31 PM
phd from ny

Curious if the authors consider it advisable to inject newborns with 250 micrograms of aluminum? I believe its about five times the level of the neurotoxin that is shown to cause developmental delays and far exceeds FDA limits for the amount permitted in one liter of adult IV solutions... yet most of us new parents are pressured to consent to this dangerous injection on day one of the babys life because of the Hep B shot. Is this really necessary wise or healthy? for an STD?

Oct. 14 2011 02:28 PM
J.C. from Beacon NY

Excellent topic and guests. Please do more shows on child development.

Oct. 14 2011 01:59 PM

A family story concerned my mother and sister when they were small children. My grandparents told my aunt "Be careful. You may hurt your sister with that fireplace poker." My aunt then picked up the poker and hit my mother with it. When she got yelled out my aunt said " you said I may"

Oct. 14 2011 01:58 PM
J.C. from Beacon NY

Excellent topic and guests. Please do more shows on child development.

Oct. 14 2011 01:58 PM
Jack from Gardiner, NY

@Alejandro, one thing to look at is Apraxia which is a motor delay which can affect speech which is not part of Autism.

Oct. 14 2011 01:55 PM
Jack from Gardiner, NY

@Alejandro, one thing to look at is Apraxia which is a motor delay which can affect speech which is not part of Autism.

Oct. 14 2011 01:54 PM
dan from New York

We have an 8 yr old son who has been diagnosed with ADHD by 2 clinical psychologists. What do the guests feel about ADHD (some people think it bunk).

Can the brain grow out of ADHD?
Is it chemical, genetic, or environmental (training)?

Oct. 14 2011 01:53 PM
Cheryl Brinker from City Island

I had a daughter who slept most of the time after mother thought there was something wrong....there wasn't! She has always needed approx. 10 hours of sleep or more (when she was a teenager). Any reason why she would need extra this day at age 44! She has always been a calm wonderful person who has done well! Thanks!

Oct. 14 2011 01:50 PM
Karen Greene Ph.D. from orangeburg, NY

Night terrors are not true dreams [as we know narrative dreams] and they usually occur when children wake suddenly, directly from a deeper level of sleep/brain activity. The child cannot report the dream content because they apparently have no access to language in that state-- but to the emotional centers of the brain. So we get the terror but not the content which needs to be verbally mediated to be reported.

Oct. 14 2011 01:49 PM
LL from UWS

Gender differences about interest in faces?

Almost every time I look at a baby when I'm out and about, baby girls look back at me and baby boys don't.

Boys seem to pay more attention to large trucks, too.

Oct. 14 2011 01:48 PM
Liz from NYC

Having parented a colicky baby (who cried for hours at a time for no apparent reason, e.g., no gastrointestinal problems) I'm curious, has there been any new research about the possible causes of colic?

Oct. 14 2011 01:48 PM
Heli David

My son has been training classical ballet for about ten years; last couple of years with rigorous training 6 days a week. Now, that he has entered high school and has not been able to train much at all, his body seems to want it and the brain "keeps thinking about it". What happens in a child's brains with such serious practice? p.s. By the way, he can focus EASILY for hours when doing homework.

Oct. 14 2011 01:47 PM
jayr from queens

my 4 year old son is definitely more response to pretty ladies than to any other adult. what's up with that?!

Oct. 14 2011 01:47 PM
Melissa from Montclair

How early can depression be detected?

Oct. 14 2011 01:46 PM
D.C. Anderson from White Plains, NY

It has been alleged that the average alcoholic has a 5% higher IQ than the average citizen. It is also common knowledge that most - if not all - alcoholics drink heavily to hide the pain of some early childhood "situations." In light of that I wonder if the lack of emotional attention during the formative years allows the other side of the brain to develop that much better.

Oct. 14 2011 01:46 PM
LL from UWS

Question: Is it true that under a certain age a child cannot understand a negative command?

A friend told me not to say "don't touch that" and to replace it with a positive command instead such as "put your hands on your head"--I found this worked very well.

P.S. Can we do more segments like this?

Oct. 14 2011 01:41 PM
Parker Hampson from CT

Is self restraint development related to later substance abuse?

Oct. 14 2011 01:38 PM

I don't know if this falls within the boundaries of this conversation, but my Q of the day about my 3-year-old only child is: Why is it that she rebels against the instructions of her teacher and parents, but jumps to do whatever her bossy best friend tells her to do?

Oct. 14 2011 01:37 PM
sandy from Newport Beach, CA

I'm really interested in the difference between the brains of boys and girls? The behavior of boys and girls are so different - are there any studies looking into this difference?

Oct. 14 2011 01:34 PM
Matt from Jackson Heights NY

Is a child's moral/ethical development associated with its brain development? (Mirror neurons etc.)

Oct. 14 2011 01:34 PM
JT from LI

I get annoyed when people use baby talk with my 1 year old. I just don't like their use of fragmented sentences and fake words. My son seems to understand normal sentences and the correct words and I worry that the baby talk hurts rather than helps him. Should I worry about this?

Oct. 14 2011 01:31 PM

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