Inside the Brain
Ronald Kotulak, 1996

The brain is built from pieces made by the DNA and constructed by early childhood experiences. The new revelations about the role of experience in building the brain has spawned a movement to do more to help children learn. "An infant's brain ... wires itself into a thinking and emotional organ from the things it experiences -- the sounds, sights, touches, smells, and tastes that come its way, and the important give-and-take interaction with others".

A rich environment full of language, spoken by caregivers, not by radio or TV, and full of music which "exercises the same neural networks we use for learning and memory" is the environment the brain needs to build its incredibly vast network of synaptic connections. "[T]hese critical networks are already being formed by age one".

Many children start school at age five who have missed the earlier chance to start the process of brain growth. They too often become the problem students and school failures. "Eighty percent of prisoners in U.S. jails are high school dropouts". We are learning that age five is too late. The education system must be revised to provide stimulating day care for all children of working parents during the critical first few years of life.

"Why do some children turn out bad?" That question launched this book. The Chicago Tribune did a study of sixty-one children from the Chicago area who died under the age of fourteen. Most were born to teenage mothers and had no father at home. Most of them had impoverished lives in poor neighborhoods. But not all children who grow up in such conditions turn out bad. Could the new sciences of brain research shed light on the real needs of growing children and help us design better systems to meet those needs?

This book explores the vast growth in our understanding of the brain; facts such as the incredible growth of synaptic connections around the time of birth, half of which die off by age ten as the brain experiences the unique surroundings it is born into, "whether Borneo or Boston", such as plasticity, the physical and chemical changes the brain undergoes as it responds to its environment.

The second part of the book deals with the negative side of the story, what happens when the brain gets damaged, by stress, by alcohol, or by other forms of violence. The third part of the book addresses the brain's response, how it attempts to heal itself.

Part 1. How the Brain Gets Built

Chapter 1. Revealing the Secrets of the Brain

Chapter 2. Mental Workouts and Brain Power

Chapter 3. How the Brain Learns to Talk

Chapter 4. The Effect of Violence and Stress on Kids' Brains

Chapter 5. Averting Retardation Through IQ Boosts

Part 2. How the Brain Gets Damaged

Chapter 6. Tracking Down the Monster Within Us

Chapter 7. How the Brain's Chemistry Unleashes Violence

Chapter 8. Why Some Kids Turn Violent

Chapter 9. New Drugs That Fight Violence

Chapter 10. How Alcohol Causes Craving

Chapter 11. Alcohol and the Brain's Reward Center

Part 3. How the Brain Fixes Itself

Chapter 12. Repair and Renewal

Chapter 13. Keys to Better Memory

Chapter 14. Chemicals That Fix the Brain

Chapter 15. Keeping the Brain Sharp As We Age

Chapter 16. Reversing Stroke and Spinal Cord Damage


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