Nathan explained to us how the brain works and how neuro- science can better inform our day to day interactions with children and young people. Advances in scanning technologies during the 1990's allowed us to understand the workings of the brain like never before.
What the research says:
- the first three years ARE the most important
- how intelligent you are isn’t your genes (previously the assumption was genes were for intelligence)
- the growth of the frontal cortex is experience dependent
What you experience for the first 1000 days of your life is probably what you will be experiencing for the rest of your life... (a child uses their first 1000 days to gather data to work out what sort of brain it needs to get through the rest of life). The more minutes a child sees his mum’s (or main carer’s) face in front of them, the brainier they will be. A first born child will always get most of this.
Humans have four brains. The human brain mediates our movements, our senses, our thinking, feeling and behaving.
Brain #1(Brainstem) is the most basic part of the brain and ensures survival (fight / flight / freeze). Survival is the most important. The brainstem controls heart rate, body temperature and other survival-related functions. It also stores anxiety or arousal states associated with a traumatic event.
Brain #2 (Midbrain) is about movement. Together brains #1 & #2 is the reptilian brain. (that’s all a reptile has).
Brain #3 (Limbic) stores emotional information. Mammals have brains #1, #2 & #3 (it's about survival, movement and emotion).
Brain #4 (Cortical) controls abstract thought and cognitive memory; planning for the future, empathy and imagination. (The part of the brain that does all the “flash stuff.” - language, abstract, thought, imagination, consciousness. Only humans have brains #1, #2, #3 & #4. This is when you are doing something that a mammal can't do, for example ask: "Can the dog do it?" If the answer is yes, it’s not the front cortex).
The brain is geared to react to negative feedback, because negative feedback links to survival. Positive feedback doesn’t threaten survival. We need to understand that the Brainstem (survival brain) is always in charge, not the Cortical (learning brain). The survival brain gives permission for learning - so one can learn, but the second your brain "flips" to survival you can’t learn. Survival always wins (fight / flight / freeze). Therefore, to really be using your cortex, your brain-stem needs to be calm...
Effects of Trauma, abuse and neglect on the developing brain...
An orphanage child will have an aroused Brainstem for three hours between feeds. When a child in a caring ["normal"] home cries, someone comes, they get food, a cuddle and in 2 minutes they relax. It is biologically impossible to over-spoil a child under 18 months. If they are comforted, looked at /after and cuddled, the more of a sensory system they will have for stress. This, as a result will set them up for dealing with stress later.
Children have to play up to 7 years of age, otherwise you kill their creativity. Free play is thus not a waste of time. Unfortunately, teaching in the traditional sense interrupts free play. Teaching kids by taking them away from free play will dumb them down.
The First 1000 Days | Johan Morreau | TEDxTauranga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1slVo3BNtM
Brain Development and Learning by Nathan Mikaere- Wallis:
The crucial dyad relationship for infants | Nathan Wallis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UWbCnv1vno
Teenage brain under the microscope: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaK48oxpSpM
We're not set by our genes | Nathan Wallis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTk0uZ3pZrI
~ "The six-year old that has "supposedly wasted all of their time playing, with no direct instruction at all from parents or teachers, will according to research be higher qualified, earn more money and be happier." - Nathan Wallis, The Developing Brain ~