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Holey Brains
March 4, 2013
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"Children who have had almost non-stop stress — from abandonment, threat, violence, neglect, or abuse — have huge holes in their higher brain structures," observes Pennie Brownlee in Dance with Me in the Heart. "They don't have the hardware to run the software of peace and partnership. Instead, they have highly developed defensive brains for fight and flight. Highly developed defense-department-brains don't grow healthy partnerships; they lead to baby-battlers, violence, and war. Scans of violent adults reveal the holes are still there — they don't repair themselves. It is the first three years that the growth is laid down, or not....

"Babies who have been peacefully nurtured throughout their growing are very different. Their brains have huge prefrontal cortices. Researcher Paul MacLean termed that part of the brain the angel lobes because they are associated with the highest human qualities. These children are perfectly set up for their divine birthright; the happiness that comes from loving and being loved.... If your baby could tell you what she would really like from you, she wouldn't ask you for toys and things. She would tell you that she wanted to feel safe and loved, and now you can see why it is so important for her. Her future rests on it."






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Displaying All 4 Comments
Kirsten
World Forum Foundation
Eugene, OR, United States
03/05/2013 11:08 pm

This author's words, intentionally or not, almost suggest that there's a point at which it becomes too late to even try to help those who've had challenging or traumatic early years. Parents, early childhood professionals and those who support and fund early education need to understand how critical these years are. At the same time, I resist the notion that the door closes on brain development or social-emotional growth, especially if such a notion leads us to give up on anyone. Older children, teens and even adults have made amazing transformations at all ages and stages, and we continue to learn more and more about brain development and plasticity every day.

Edna Ranck
OMEP-USA
Washington, DC, United States
03/04/2013 10:36 am

Perhaps the author only meant that there are gaps in development when a child is treated poorly and with overwhelming negativity. I didn't read the excerpt as a misstatement, but that positive interactions are essential for healthy development. Writers use the language of their field; maybe they were trying to write for lay readers.

Edna Ranck
OMEP-USA
Washington, DC, United States
03/04/2013 10:36 am

Perhaps the author only meant that there are gaps in development when a child is treated poorly and with overwhelming negativity. I didn't read the excerpt as a misstatement, but that positive interactions are essential for healthy development. Writers use the language of their field; maybe they were trying to write for lay readers.

Melissa Burnham
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV, United States
03/04/2013 05:29 am

To state that children who have experienced extreme stress "have huge holes in their higher brain structures" is misleading. Please stick to developmental neuroscientists and endocrinologists when discussing the effects of stress on the brain. While I am all for peaceful nurturance, one doesn't need to misstate brain research to make clear that babies need nurturing adults or that having such adults is their birthright.


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