Are We Over-Stimulating Young Children?

This article left me thinking that we’re continually looking to the institution of Science to be the authority of some common sense analysis and conclusions, except that it doesn’t always answer the questions it raises! Little, if anything at all appears resolved by this study, especially in the light of common folk wisdom -however, I do have issue with some of the assertions I don’t  think are scientifically justified.

Before you go further you’ll want to have a look at the article and maybe watch the video posted below as well.

For instance, isn’t it a common sense assertion that the experiences in early life are important and consequential to the developmental of connections in the brain? However, the assertion that “prolonged exposure to rapid image changes” during early life preconditions the “mind” to expect high levels of stimulation just doesn’t sound like a scientific one. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m more interested in understanding how the brain copes with and adapts to this prolonged exposure,  before I’d assert that this preconditions a child to expect high levels of stimulation. We really can’t talk about subjective expectations scientifically, can we?

While Dr. Christakis’ is common sense position, that’s altogether different from being a scientific one. My concern with a lot of behavioral studies is that there is often a rush to make a sensational headline or conclusion, at the expense of being thorough. This makes it all too easy for science to become a politically charged institution.

In the video below you’ll see Dr. Dimitri Christakis giving a TED talk reviewing his findings as well as his current research topics. I’m interested in the over-stimulation experiments where he’s been able to demonstrate that mice over-stimulated by sight and sound for 42 days beginning at 10 days of life, show both a more risky behavior in open-field experiments, as well as novel object recognition irregularities compared to control mice.

The study stopped at analysis of the  open-field behavior, instead of a more in-depth view of chemical alterations in the physiology. Finding that the mice in the different experimental upbringing groups act differently- in and of itself- doesn’t suggest that there’s an inattention or ADHD syndrome that parallels a humans’ – at least not without first demonstrating the mouse has a capacity to concentrate in a structured settingwhich is now perturbed when brought up in an “over-stimulated” cage.

There should be a limit to the validity of behavior data we obtain from species with brains adapted to a lifestyle somewhat alien to the most dominant primate on Earth, homo sapiens. At least a casual mention of the caveats of such studies would appease me that they’re aware that there are limits to conclusions that can be drawn. This is why I love science though, we will continue to perfect the design , the tools , and the results to such a point where we’ll have much more confidence in the experimental conclusions 🙂

Wikipedia: any definition: one or some indiscriminately of whatever kind.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington, says that in the first two years of life, the brain triples in size. Connections that form in the brain, or synapses, are based on early life experiences. Prolonged exposure to rapid image changes during these first years of critical brain development preconditions the mind to expect high levels of stimulation. This, in turn, leads to inattention in later years. Studies have shown that the more kids watch TV before the age of three, the more likely they are to have attention problems in school.

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