Help Science Guide This Child
David Berreby is the author of "Us and Them: The Science of Identity." He has written about human behavior and other science topics for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Smithsonian, The New Republic, Nature, Discover, Vogue and many other publications. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Paris, a Science Writing Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, a resident at Yaddo, and in 2006 was awarded the Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship for the first edition of "Us and Them." David can be found on Twitter at @davidberreby and reached by email at david [at] davidberreby [dot] com.
The big cognitive and emotional news in the Mind Matters household is that it is expecting the arrival in a few weeks of a demanding, very long-staying guest, whose personality and tastes are unknown to either current member. This being, a human infant, inspires us, its soon-to-be mother and father, with hope, terror and powerful urges at various levels of analysis: We must make money! We must become better people! We must urinate now!
What will this new person be like? We, the parents, don't run the casino of genetics, nor the crap shoot that is the overall state of society in 2019, nor the lottery that is his (it's a he) peer group. And the outcome of those gambles will have more to do with the kid's mind matters than whether or not we play him Mozart in his bassinette. (Note to self: Obtain bassinette soon.) Judith Rich Harris persuaded me of this years ago.
Still, we'd like to keep our oar in, which leads me to this request to you, oh readers: I would like to know what non-obvious books or articles you'd recommend to new parents about the mind, psychology, neuroscience or related subjects.
By non-obvious I mean works that aren't clearly designed to advise, warn, or recount. We don't need to be told about memoirs like Anne Lamott's on motherhood or Michael Lewis' on fatherhood or Michael Chabon's on both. All fine books, but I didn't need a guide to find them. Don't need pointers to Doctors Spock or Sears either. I'd like to know about mind-science work that, without being explicitly about baby-handling or child-rearing, nonetheless had an influence on you.
For instance, I keep coming back to Temple Grandin's Animals in Translation, because it's about how to understand minds that can't talk and don't see the social world in which most people—but not newborns—live. Among blogs I like Parentingscience.
However, this first child of ours is not yet born, which means that I, by definition, don't really know what I'm talking about here. A thought, by the way, I find restful. As people can't control or predict the future, I find the expectation that I should to be pointlessly stressful. Like Nicholas Nassim Taleb, who has said he likes the Muslim phrase inshallah ("God willing"), appended to most future-tense sentences, for this reason: It's a sage reminder that no one really knows for sure what's going to happen, whatever wishful thinking we prefer to enjoy.)
Anyway, if there is a scientific work out there that helped you in your parent experience, or that you wish now you had known about then, please add a few lines to the comments section.
Your Blogging Pledge of Quality: Neither baby pictures, nor gassy reflections on what it all means, nor cute nicknames (MM 2.0, Neuron Matters) will besmirch this blog. If in some future month you notice me violating this pledge, please (a) let me know and (b) ask yourself why you have so much free time to devote to the blogosphere.
It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.
- Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
- These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
- The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.
- Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
- Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
- Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.
- Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
- Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
- Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
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