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Building Superhighways in Your Brain
Dr. Harold Koplewicz is one of the nation’s leading child and adolescent psychiatrists. He is widely recognized as an innovator in the field, a strong advocate for child mental health, and a master clinician. He has also been at the forefront of public education to dispel the myths and stigma surrounding children and adolescents living with psychiatric disorders. Koplewicz has been repeatedly recognized in America’s Top Doctors, Best Doctors in America, and New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors in New York.” In 2006, he was appointed Director of the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research (NKI), making him the third person to hold that position since the institution’s founding in 1952. He is also the founding president of the Child Mind Institute.
Question: Do psychotropic drugs affect adults and children differently?
Harold Koplewicz: So it’s unclear, but there’s no doubt that brains of children versus teenagers versus adults are different. And I think it’s important for us to remember that your brain is truly a work in progress. And that when you’re a child, your ability to learn things is quite remarkable and there is a plasticity to your brain so that if you want to learn to speak Italian, you will learn to speak Italian at 10 or 11 with as natural an accent as someone who has grown up in Rome. And yet if you learn to speak Italian after the age of 13 or 14, you could learn the vocabulary and you can certainly learn the grammar, but your accent won’t be nearly as natural, especially even if you learned it at 40 or 50, where it becomes very trying for you brain to learn that new language.
So essentially what happens is that at 13 your brain essentially says: "We have to become more efficient." It’s very bushy out there, you know, every—there’s so many little roads and making little connections between different parts of your brain that aren’t being used, the brain essentially says, if you haven’t used it, we’re going to lose it. So if you haven’t used that little country road, let’s say, the circuitous little route to learn to play golf, or to learn to speak Italian, we’re going to eliminate that. And we’re going to create structured superhighways in our brain for learning.
So in eighth and ninth grade, our subject matter becomes much more comprehensive. We are able to learn so much more. Now, that doesn’t mean that you cannot learn Italian or to play golf, but it becomes much more of an intellectual or cognitive experience. So if you stop playing golf for six months the next time you go out on the course you have to remember what it is that I’m supposed to do. How is it I’m supposed to hold the club? What is it I’m supposed to do when I swing through versus, if you learned early in life and you stopped, you just have a natural swing. You get back on the course.
And if you look at great Olympic athletes, they all learned to do their sports very early on. Four, five, six, seven—certainly before 13. So at 13, your brain is becoming more efficient and that efficiency really, and renovation takes until you are 25 years old. And it’s during that time of restructuring and renovation that serious psychiatric illness occurs. So whether it is the first bouts of depression at 13 or 14, or schizophrenia at 18 or 19, or manic depressive illness or true adult bipolar disorder at 19 or 20, all those things occur when the brain is under this reconstruction or this renovation.
So quite clearly, the effects of medication on a child versus an adolescent versus an adult are very different. And very often, children will need lower doses. Children will be more sensitive to the medicine than a teenager or an adult.
Recorded August 18, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
The neural pathways in the brains of children are small and incredibly interconnected, allowing them to learn new things very quickly, but around the age of 13 these small roads are consolidated into superhighways.
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>