One Broken Mom

1.34 What You Need to Know About Neuroscience

February 02, 2019 Amee Quiriconi Season 1 Episode 34
One Broken Mom
1.34 What You Need to Know About Neuroscience
Chapters
One Broken Mom
1.34 What You Need to Know About Neuroscience
Feb 02, 2019 Season 1 Episode 34
Amee Quiriconi

What made Amee perk up and get serious about changing herself was reading the scientific information and research that was showing emotions ARE based in science and biology. That they aren’t accidental. They aren’t the luck of the draw. And that we are governed every day by auto pilot functions in our brain while primitive still completely necessary. And that the auto pilot settings were established by not only the quantity of experiences but also the QUALITY of these experiences we had in childhood! 

But the urgency was in seeing that the understanding of brain architecture and the influence of our experiences on the development of our emotions, mental wellness, mental illness was only recent. As in – while Amee was growing up and even starting her own family, what scientists know today was JUST becoming understood.

Grasping this one thing – the fact that the science is THERE but the fact that its not well known or has reached a saturation in our society yet is EXACTLY why Amee started to podcast and become an advocate for understanding how our negative, traumatic, adverse, neglectful, sometimes abusive and scary childhood experiences we all have had in one form or another – is why we, as adults – have the health and well-being issues we have today.

AND if we don’t change or become aware of what these experiences are and what impacts they have on our brains, we will keep passing down from one generation to the next through the mis-guided parenting of our own kids.

"Advances in brain and behavioral research have fueled a new sense of urgency about learning and school-readiness in children. Breakthroughs in brain science show how the cultural environment alters children’s brain development. Discoveries in behavioral science document the fact that early learning sets the foundation for success in school and in life."

This episode features Amelia Bachleda, Ph.D.

Outreach and Education Specialist 
 Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS)

In this role, Dr. Bachleda translates and delivers accessible information about the latest research in early learning and brain development to members of the early learning community, including parents, child care providers, educators and policymakers. Since joining I-LABS in 2015, Dr. Bachleda has given dozens of public talks and workshops about the neuroscience of childhood and brain development.

Prior to her work at I-LABS, Dr. Bachleda earned a B.S. in Neurobiology at the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in neurobiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her graduate work focused on brain and sensory development. She has also developed content and curriculum materials for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC.

Key Topics Discussed In This Episode

  • What is different about the study of the brain development today versus 30, 20 or even 10 years ago? 
  • What are the distinct phases of brain development in humans? 
  • Do boys & girls have different brains? 
  • Are there people who are more “sensitive” than others? Meaning there are those who may render their environment differently than someone sitting next to them seeing & experiencing the exact same thing? Is the genetic?
  • In psychology, there is Attachment Theory which states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal development. Is there anything in neuroscience that supports this? 
  • I have heard from many of my guests that are psychologists that we are “wired” to connect when we are children. What does that actually mean? 
  • How do neuroscientists define “trauma” and “traumatic experiences”?  Is different than psychologists? 
  • Explain neuroplasticity  

References & Links

Show Notes Transcript

What made Amee perk up and get serious about changing herself was reading the scientific information and research that was showing emotions ARE based in science and biology. That they aren’t accidental. They aren’t the luck of the draw. And that we are governed every day by auto pilot functions in our brain while primitive still completely necessary. And that the auto pilot settings were established by not only the quantity of experiences but also the QUALITY of these experiences we had in childhood! 

But the urgency was in seeing that the understanding of brain architecture and the influence of our experiences on the development of our emotions, mental wellness, mental illness was only recent. As in – while Amee was growing up and even starting her own family, what scientists know today was JUST becoming understood.

Grasping this one thing – the fact that the science is THERE but the fact that its not well known or has reached a saturation in our society yet is EXACTLY why Amee started to podcast and become an advocate for understanding how our negative, traumatic, adverse, neglectful, sometimes abusive and scary childhood experiences we all have had in one form or another – is why we, as adults – have the health and well-being issues we have today.

AND if we don’t change or become aware of what these experiences are and what impacts they have on our brains, we will keep passing down from one generation to the next through the mis-guided parenting of our own kids.

"Advances in brain and behavioral research have fueled a new sense of urgency about learning and school-readiness in children. Breakthroughs in brain science show how the cultural environment alters children’s brain development. Discoveries in behavioral science document the fact that early learning sets the foundation for success in school and in life."

This episode features Amelia Bachleda, Ph.D.

Outreach and Education Specialist 
 Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS)

In this role, Dr. Bachleda translates and delivers accessible information about the latest research in early learning and brain development to members of the early learning community, including parents, child care providers, educators and policymakers. Since joining I-LABS in 2015, Dr. Bachleda has given dozens of public talks and workshops about the neuroscience of childhood and brain development.

Prior to her work at I-LABS, Dr. Bachleda earned a B.S. in Neurobiology at the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in neurobiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her graduate work focused on brain and sensory development. She has also developed content and curriculum materials for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC.

Key Topics Discussed In This Episode

  • What is different about the study of the brain development today versus 30, 20 or even 10 years ago? 
  • What are the distinct phases of brain development in humans? 
  • Do boys & girls have different brains? 
  • Are there people who are more “sensitive” than others? Meaning there are those who may render their environment differently than someone sitting next to them seeing & experiencing the exact same thing? Is the genetic?
  • In psychology, there is Attachment Theory which states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal development. Is there anything in neuroscience that supports this? 
  • I have heard from many of my guests that are psychologists that we are “wired” to connect when we are children. What does that actually mean? 
  • How do neuroscientists define “trauma” and “traumatic experiences”?  Is different than psychologists? 
  • Explain neuroplasticity  

References & Links

spk_0:   0:12
you're listening to one Broken Long, a podcast dedicated to raising awareness about mental health, parenting and self improvement. I'm the host. A meek work. Oniy One Broken Mom is not a family show. It is intended for adults only and may contain adult language. Sometimes the topics are serious, but you can count on the episodes to be entertaining. Also, one broken mom is not offering any psychiatric for medical diagnosis. Were just here giving away useful and important information. So if you're ready to hear real talk by real people so that we can all get better together, then you're in the right place and welcome. Okay, everyone, welcome to the show today. I'm pretty excited about this because this this was unintentional. But this weekend I had made a joke that my reward for having worked so hard on Sunday on my last episode that I released of one broken Mom was I was gonna treat myself to a Channing Tatum movie, and I promised, There's irrelevancies in this on and it happened to be G. I. Joe, Rise of Cobra. And no, I know it's not one of the most cinematic masterpieces that are out there but it's a great movie if you're folding laundry and it's a Sunday afternoon and you kind of early, mildly paying attention. And what was funny was that one of the characters her name is Scarlet O'Hare, and she's a very science driven person and that her whole philosophy is that if science can prove it or can't prove it, then it doesn't exist now. This movie came out in 2009 and no, I'm not delusional and thinking that Hollywood represents all current thinking. But it does give us a cultural snapshot from time to time of what beliefs there are out there in society. And in 2009 there was a clever Hollywood writer who wrote this line for Scarlett to recite, which is attraction is an emotion. Emotions are not based on science, and if you can't quantify or prove something exists than in my mind, it doesn't. And I literally choked on my soup when I heard that, because we know that so much has changed in the world in terms of our understanding about this, and so even back in 2009 we just did not respect or value where emotions play in our world and in our brain development, and that it didn't feel at that point time, even to some people that it was even scientific and basis. Now what made me perk up and get serious about changing myself in the last year was reading the scientific information and the research that was showing emotions are based in science and biology, that they aren't accidental. They aren't the luck of the draw and that we are governed every day by autopilot. Functions in her brain, while primitive, are yet still completely necessary to us as humans, and that the autopilot settings were established not on Lee by the quantity of experiences, but also the quality of these experiences that we had in our childhood. But the urgency was in seeing that the understanding of brain architecture in the influence of our experiences on the development of our emotions, mental wellness, mental illness was on Lee recent and as in while I was growing up and even starting my own family, what scientists know today was just becoming and being understood, grasping this one thing, the fact that the science is there, but the fact is that it's not well known or has reached a saturation in our society yet is exactly why I started the podcast and become an advocate for understanding how our negative, traumatic, adverse, neglectful, sometimes abusive and scary childhood experiences we've all had in one form or another is why we, as adults, have the health and well being issues that we have today. And if we don't change or become aware of these, what these experiences are and what the impacts have on our brains, we will keep passing them down from one generation to the next through the misguided parenting of her own kids. And so today for the first time now, I finally have a neuroscientist on one broken mom. Her name is Amelia Bach Leda, and she's a PhD and it works is the outreach and education specialist at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, which is also called I Labs at the University of Washington. And in her role, she her job is to translate and deliver accessible information about the latest research and early learning and brain development to anybody that's out there in the community, including parents, childcare providers, educators, podcasters like me and policymakers. And since joining I Labs in 2015. She's given dozens of public talks and workshops about the neuroscience of the child of childhood and brain development. So I want to say, Welcome to one broken Mom, Thio. Amelia, thank you so much for being here.

spk_1:   4:37
Thanks to me, it's my pleasure.

spk_0:   4:39
So let's talk about real quickly. Um, what has been the difference is in the study of brain development over the last 2030 and even the last 10 years ago. How much has the has the world of science in that area changed?

spk_1:   4:55
You know, it is a really exciting time for neuroscience. I think we now have new tools that allow us to ask questions that we would never have been able to ask before. So for the first time, we can really get ah, good idea of not only what a child is doing, perhaps from there a behavioral standpoint, but what the structure of their brain looks like and also what's actually going on inside their brain. So we can, for the first time, take a peek at a child's behavior structure of their brain and the activity inside of the bright, and that is the trifecta that we really haven't been able to access before. And that's actually one of the pieces of science that we focus on here at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and one of our big areas of study. One of the areas that were really excited about is this idea of brain imaging seeing what's going what's going on inside of the brain of a child in real time. So, for example, we have, ah, brain imaging machine here called Magneto and Pepe la graffiti O r M e g for short. I'm not sure if you heard of M e G before

spk_0:   6:06
I did, man. Yeah, it seems nice. Nice name, Meg.

spk_1:   6:09
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, So it is this fantastic tool that allows us to see in real time what's going on inside a child's brain on a millisecond millisecond basis. And unlike an M. R. I or an FM or I don't know if you've experienced that type of brain imaging before, it can be really loud and claustrophobic. This particular brain imaging tool is completely silent on and, um, not invasive, harmless and were able to see what is going on inside the brain of a child. And this all smiles us to sort of get at some of those interesting questions that we haven't been ableto ask before. You know, I think a big difference between information we had 20 years ago and information we have now is for a long time we really relied on animal models for human behaviour, and animal models are complex and wonderful. But they're not the same as looking at what is going on in the brain of a child, right?

spk_0:   7:11
Right.

spk_1:   7:12
And so we're able Thio had these new pieces and were able to get at some of these more complex questions. You are speaking about emotions, or there's a recent study that came out of our, uh, institute, looking at what happens in the brain of a child when they're anticipating being touched, for example, which is kind of interesting, right? Or they anticipate touching something else. So that is actually something that all of our brains do. We anticipate what is going to feel like when we reach out and touch something, and the office of the study were able to correlate that how strongly our brains onto that anticipation of touch to skills like anticipation and focus on which is really important for executive functioning the sort of interconnectedness of all of these different realms of development they were able to access for the first time.

spk_0:   8:08
Well, that's actually pretty amazing, and, you know, and I've said this before, but again, I'm not the neuroscientist. So when it comes out of my mouth, it could be questioned, right? But you know that that has been one of the explanations. That was one of the things that, like I said resonated with me. Was that, um you know, back in the, you know, even 2030 years ago, You know, there was some technology that was available, but even software made a huge difference and being able to crunch data that receiving and seeing all that information is one part of it. But then the other piece of it is actually being ableto have the ability to analyze it and model it and run it, and then use it as a prediction tool, you know, to be able to say like Okay, now we've got all that we've been able to collect and sort all of this together, Um, and and then come up with, you know, some theories to test and then finding out that some of those are, You know, they're true. Um, and so do you guys. I'm just curious about this, too, because I understand, You know, the brain is the brain is working as one thing, but then there's also the brain is signaling hormones through the through the body. Do you, while you're studying Children, you know, I don't know if you do this or not, but are you also measuring how the hormone levels change at the at the moment you're seeing brain activity.

spk_1:   9:18
To my knowledge, we have not conducted a study like that here before. But I know that other other researchers do, and that is an active area of research, perhaps measuring cortisol, our body's stress hormone. That might come to mind. And I think you know, there's definitely room. We may x floor that more in the future.

spk_0:   9:39
Yeah, right. I can imagine. You know, first of all, where do you get kids to study? Where do they come from?

spk_1:   9:47
Well, we're really lucky here at the University of Washington. There's actually a survey that I believe it is parents in King County. It might be statewide. I believe it's King County, though, that all parents of newborn Children are given and they can sign up if they want to be on a list. Serv. Hey, view, would you be interested in participating at studies at the University of Washington or other, um, Research Institute?

spk_0:   10:15
Okay, that's cool. Yeah,

spk_1:   10:18
and so were able to go in and say, You know, we study development, and so often we want a cohort of, let's say, a six week old babies on. So our researchers here can go can make a request to say I would like to have all the names of all the babies that are gonna be six weeks in two weeks. Um and so that's a really great way that we can reach out and then also word of mouth. We have a lot of siblings that come in of, um, uh, you know, parents have brought in our first child, and then they bring in their second child. So there's a variety of different ways to go about recruiting for a study.

spk_0:   10:52
Well, and I had asked about the blood thing because I'm sure that's a form of childhood trauma if I volunteered my child for a study and then they got poked every time and had needles and blood drawn and stuff like that. So, um, you know, asking That's fair. S o. Let's lock everybody through. What? How how does the brain development What are these distinct phases of brain development in humans now that we can actually look at a human brain and we don't have to make a lot of assumptions about it?

spk_1:   11:18
Sure. Yeah. One of the things that I think is really fascinating is just how much the brain develops in the first few years of life. So, for example, when we're born, our brains are about 25% of their adult size, which is already pretty big, right? None of the rest of us is 25% of our adult size. You can imagine, you know, tryingto, you know, birth a child who's 1/4 of their adult height or weight.

spk_0:   11:45
You know,

spk_1:   11:45
that's that's a pretty large baby, right?

spk_0:   11:47
You are already quite

spk_1:   11:48
large, and they're actually limited by the size of what is physically able to get through the birthing canal, right? So large brains already. But then, um by the time a child five, the brain actually grows to about 90% of its adult size, which is a tremendous amount of growth that happens in that first year of life. Um, and I always like to carry off this a little bit, too. So anyone who spent any time with Children probably knows 95% of the brain's adult size does not mean 95% done, or 95% developed right. We know that five year olds are not 95% done with all of their development,

spk_0:   12:30
right? Like

spk_1:   12:31
they have all of the Yeah, they have all of the raw materials there, right, And there's something really interesting that happens in this early phase in brain development. So when we're born, we have almost all of the neurons or brain cells that will ever have, And neurons are the cells in our brain that formed the complex Communication network, goes throughout her brain and throughout her body. So we're born with brains out, but they're not all connected or wired together, and that is a really fascinating part of brain development, because the connections between neurons, the head of how those in your own share information. And every time we learn something new, we either make a new connection between the South and our brain or remake a connection stronger. And that's actually a physical connection between neurons. They're called synapses, so I'll use connections or synapses interchangeably. And so we're born with cell. But we're not born with all of the connections, and that's really important. And that's great, because we have so much to learn when we're born right. We have to learn about, um, how to walk, how to talk, what food they like, who we are, what our community is, our identities, all of those things we have to learn. And so there's a tremendous potential for learning that's happening in the period where there's so much brain growth. And one estimate is is that between the ages of zero and three, young Children are making one million new synaptic connections each second. That is just an incredible amount of connectivity and brain growth that's happening in the early period and sort of reflecting back to the question you asked earlier. That's one of the new pieces with that new research is just how important these early years are in setting the foundational architecture and structure of the brain, and to a certain extent, which connections form is going to be based on the X appearances that we have Children. So the more often we have an experience whether that experience is a positive experience or whether that experience is a negative experience, the more likely we're going to be to form the connections between the cells in our brain. And if you zoom out that sort of become, you can see that becoming patterns of behavior of response that are based on the early connection that were forming.

spk_0:   15:03
Yeah, and a brain and a lecture. I like brain. I Sorry, I like brain architecture. It, you know, you mentioned I've seen it, Um and so I I'm gonna let you continue here. Um, you know, for people out there that think much more concrete, Lee, you know, around architectural, Let's just say so. What you're saying is that by five years old, 95% of the house's built the walls air up the floors and the ceilings, Aaron and all the light switches air in and the light fixtures air in based on whatever the D n a was that we have that that built all that. But the copper wiring between all of them is not quite put in. And that's where the experiences start to put the copper wiring and and which lights will come on when a certain switches What I mean, is that a simplified kind of way of describing a connection in the synapses between that's going on in the brain?

spk_1:   15:52
Yeah, I think that's a really great way to think about it. And, you know, I might even go to the extent of we're not quite sure which lights need to come on yet, you know? Right, because maybe we're not sure how we're gonna use that house. Um and so we might not know where what areas need need more light. Which areas need less light? When do those lights need to come on and off? And so you can have that little piece of that now.

spk_0:   16:14
But

spk_1:   16:14
I like that The idea of wiring or, um, sometimes we think of neuron as, um, telephone poles and the connections are those wires between them,

spk_0:   16:23
right? Right. That's a

spk_1:   16:24
really good analogy.

spk_0:   16:25
Well, and I just I wanted to just step in there because I know there is this assumption that what you're born with, you know, the brain that came out is all set ready to go, that it's just really the gray matter is growing as we grow, and and so then if there's mental illness or mental wellness issues and stuff, that just happened to be the way you were born. And I think that that kind of lens into the stigmas that people feel or the insecurities they feel about, you know, some of the mental wellness issues that they have here. And so, um and and so that's why I just want to make sure that what we're talking about is that that's not actually the right assumption that that's what you guys air, you know, you isn't. This community of neurobiologists are finding is that that's not the case at all. Um, okay, So I stepped in on you and interrupted you continue with what you were going to say before I was being so rude? No,

spk_1:   17:12
not at all. I think those are like fabulous questions and clarifications. And I love that you brought that up. Yes, this way. Are not fixed right there are certain pieces that, you know, it's like we have all of the raw material that we have the ingredients, right? Let's say somehow used the example of, um um, following a recipe, right? So you can you let's say you're gonna make, um, chocolate chip cookies. You could also make chocolate chip pancakes with the same ingredients just in a slightly different combination. Cooked a different way with the different method. Right. So we have all these raw ingredients is of the neurons in the cell. But how we connect to those, um, we make those connections how we set the sort of micro architecture of the brain that is really dependent on the experiences that we have when very young. However, that's not to say that once we're done with this phase, that that's fixed, right? So, um, there's this other interesting period of development where we have these particular sort of, um, I like to call them blooming and pruning, period in the brain. Have you heard of neural pruning

spk_0:   18:25
before? I have. Yeah. Go ahead.

spk_1:   18:28
Yeah. Yeah. So we actually make so many connections in our brains so quickly, That sort of one million new connections per second, a sort of a mind boggling amount that we make too many connections on. DSO in orderto have a brain that is efficient and work more like an adult brain were really able to focus in on what we're working on that were births in particular areas. We have to prune away or cut away some of the connections that we've made. And, um, this is a very natural and important process. There's a big period that happens in early childhood, when the experiences that we have the most often those air sort of shaping, which connections we're going to keep and the one that we don't need those we're going to get pruned away. And there's another period where this happens for this sort of blooming and pruning period that happens in early childhood. Can you guess when another period in child development that this might be happening in the brain?

spk_0:   19:29
I'm guessing around adolescence.

spk_1:   19:31
That's right. Yes, so that's another period. Where are you know that? And if you and I think it's kind of helpful if you look at teenagers with, um, perspective of Oh, there's a lot going on in their brain, they are rewiring parts of their brain, Their brain is going through the process of trying to figure out what's important, what I need, what are my skills. And it's a complex process. So there's those were two really important periods and child development because you're sort of reworking, um, the architecture in our brain.

spk_0:   20:02
Cool. So I have to ask this question because it's e think there's cultural biases And, you know, like I mentioned before, we started the the episode officially, you know, and people that know me and no, um, and have listened to one broken mom know that men's mental health as a specific category of something that's, you know, extremely important to me. Um, and you know, the main reason being because I have a son. And so I have to ask this question because I have you on the show. Here are their differences between boys and girls and their brains.

spk_1:   20:36
That is a very common question, and I think something that people think about a lot, and the answer is that there isn't a lot that neurobiologists have found of riel distinct, discreet differences in the brains of boys and the brains of girls Or maybe a few, you know, sort of, um, little differences here and there. But nothing that is so easy to point out to say. Obviously, there's a change here, and this means that, you know, I think, um, the field has sort of come to this idea that are, as we were talking about earlier, our earliest ext Piri Ince's really shape who we are. And in our society, in many societies there are these really strong cultural rules that we've set up for boys and girls There are we learned from what? Um, we learn From what we see, we learn from what we do, we learn from our expectations. So you can think about what our boys asked to dio how our boys asked to deal with their emotions, for example, right? It's sort of this common. Um, there's a common notion out there that boys don't cry, that they have to be tough. And the flip side of that is that girls are expected. Thio have these larger social networks and gossip and, um, you know, sort of network with their friends and talk about their feelings. Where is the room that we've allowed for girls to sort of explore this emotional realm and boys, not Thio. And perhaps conversely, to push them towards something else. Like maybe we think about math amplitude, for example. That's actually a area of study at my lab. We look at the differences between boys and girls and how they think about math, which

spk_0:   22:25
is

spk_1:   22:25
a little bit different than your question. But it's related right, because it

spk_0:   22:29
is part

spk_1:   22:29
of the What is the culture that we're and researchers have come up with this test where they can measure Children implicit biases. So be things that the the beliefs that they have, the ideas that they have about the world, that they might not even know that they have.

spk_0:   22:47
And then

spk_1:   22:48
we all have implicit diocese. Um, and they're about many different topics. You can think about race, gender just across the map. So we've looked particularly at Mass, and what they found is that there's this distinct progression that we see that you know around preschool boys and girls are able to tell that there are a boy or a girl there, often identifying as I'm a boy or a girl. Um, though we know that gender is non binary. But for the purposes of this study, they're looking

spk_0:   23:21
right

spk_1:   23:22
boys and girls. So that is, you know, the proper dominant, you know, identifying as a boy or girl on dhe. Then, around six or seven, both boys and girls starts report through these implicit measures that boys do math, that math is for boys, even if this really young age. And then just a year later, girls start saying, I don't do math because I'm a girl Masses for boys, that means that I must not do math. And this happened at a really young age and it could be disheartening, right, because it's so early. But it's the kind of thing that we have to be aware of. What are the messages that were telling our Children? And if you think about Mass, for example, maybe Mom is writing a check at a restaurant and saying, Oh my gosh, I have such a hard time with tips. I'm so bad at math, you know,

spk_0:   24:14
that's

spk_1:   24:14
like, That's one of those little messages that can just fly out of our mouth from a really young age and start telling the town of who does and who doesn't

spk_0:   24:22
and that's

spk_1:   24:22
a really discreet piece right on. But we think about emotion or mental health or any of these things. It blossoms from there,

spk_0:   24:31
right? Right. Um, I happen to have an engineering degree. So somewhere along the lines, nobody told me I couldn't do mass. I'm grateful for that piece of it. You know, one of the one of the things I do remember growing up with And I do hear people saying and, um, you know, I'm in my forties and so that that will kind of give you, you know, I'm an eighties kid. Grew up then I'm a gen x and we've heard, and we were led to believe that girls are more mature at a younger age. Um, you know, and ah and will grasp things faster than boys. And, um and I think we still even see that, or we think we see that reflected back to us and Children today is Have you seen through the studies any sort of developmental delay between the boys and the girls in terms of certain areas? Or do you think that that's also more culturally influenced rather than rooted in something that you've seen through Express through of science and the neurobiology.

spk_1:   25:30
I haven't seen any particular studies. That's not to say that they don't exist, But I think they're too. There's probably even if there is a difference in different developmental, you know, trajectories that there's probably a really strong societal and cultural component there. If we're looking, if we're next affecting, you know, Children, adults, anybody in our lives, I'm sort of rise to the expectations we have for them, right? So we're studying this expectation that, you know this child may not develop to this certain point. You know, we're sort of creating this boundary for that child now. I don't think there's a lot of studies to sort of support that message Cheryle either. So it's a little bit of a gray area, but I think it's an area of, um, active research and again, just coming back to this idea of what is the environment that we set up for and thinking about all of those different components of the environment. Not only you know how parents might interact with Children but teachers what kids see on TV what they hear. There's, you know, whole spectrum of influences on child

spk_0:   26:37
right, Right Now, Are there more people or Children out there that are more sensitive to others? Meaning that you have two subjects sitting there, Two kids they're seeing and witness seeing and experiencing the exact same thing. But one of them maybe renders it differently. And at a more sensitive level, maybe is affected by it more. Um, is that something that you've seen that may actually be one of those out of the box, you know, settings like a genetic thing? Or is there Ah, Or is that something that might still also be, um, experience base? And I ask that because of me reflecting back on my own, my own self and my own development and experiences in life and I even today is an adult. I feel sometimes, um, the kind of more I want to be empathetic. But I think empathetic is the great way of saying it of being able to kind of I feel like I feel more emotional experiences. Maybe then somebody else does. And I don't think that's no that's necessarily good or bad, but I'm just curious because I've heard from that. Some people are sensitive quote unquote, you know, to their environment in different ways and therefore those experiences that may seem inconsequential to the next kid sitting next to them can actually affects him differently. Have you have you guys touched on that scene? It studied it. Have any thoughts on that?

spk_1:   27:59
We haven't done too much work specifically looking in that topic. But I think it brings up a really nice point of this idea of nature versus nurture right, Which is kind of what we've been talking about anyways, and the idea that it's really a combination of both right. We're both the combination of our jeans on and also the environment in which were raised. And so I think, to a certain extent, you know, we can help Children learn to be more emotionally sensitive, more in tune with their own emotions, give them the sort of tools that allow them to really empathize with others. And on the flip side of it, there are definitely genetic factors that influence our personalities. And so I think that that's a real combination, right? I think you can trend one way or another personality sort of this, you know, a spectrum, right? You can kind of try and one way or another, and then our life experiences can continue to push up in one direction

spk_0:   28:59
more

spk_1:   28:59
another. Andi, I'll bring in sort of another example if you think about Children who are diagnosed with autism, right? This is a, um, uh, condition where the sort of leading thought is that there's a sensory overload in the brain. So the sensory and a little bit of a different way than you were talking about

spk_0:   29:22
but similar,

spk_1:   29:23
right? So they have many Children with autism have sort of heightened sensitivity. Thio the physical sensations in the world, maybe a color, their sound or touch and autism again is a spectrum. And there's a wide variety of how Children with autism experience the world. Um, but there is the sort of genetic, heightened predisposition, the ideas that there perhaps are actually too many connections in the brain, that perhaps the pruning didn't happen to the same extent that it might have happened in another child, and so that sort of blow them argument for the genetic sides of things. But then again, you know, how is that child raised? What environment are they, and what skills are they being taught how are they learning? Thio, you know, exist in this world kind of interesting combination of

spk_0:   30:15
Yeah, that isn't interesting. You know, I and it kind of says that when you by looking at autism in particular there, um, you can't necessarily rule out the possibility because it is expressed. You know, if you can say that in autism that some of those sensory elements are affected in that, that maybe the cross for it, then that means that without the evidence that it doesn't exist, that it's possible that, you know, as science progresses and has the ability to be able to look and study these things, you know anything's possible. That's kind of the attitude that I maintain. I don't I don't have the whole thing that science has to absolutely prove it. And if it doesn't, then it doesn't exist. I kind of figure like it all exists until science doesn't prevent, You know, it seems like everything's got to be possible. They're so otherwise you'll just quit looking for, you know, new answers and stuff. Um, so

spk_1:   31:03
and you

spk_0:   31:03
know

spk_1:   31:03
the science. Oh, my God. Don't

spk_0:   31:05
go ahead. Go on.

spk_1:   31:07
Yeah. So you know, in the science of bottles to write, like our understanding of, um, what we may have thought we feared it out. And then there's new evidence that comes online. And then we have to rethink our entire assumptions about how the brain works or how this particular, um, you know, medicine works within the body or whatever it is on. So I think just say, Okay, we're done. We don't need to revisit that. Um, is, um, you know, it's really killing ourselves short too, right? So there's there's always room for possibility. And even if a scientific study says this is probably what's happening, you know, there's always room to sort of refine that and question that and push it further for the wheat. No, even better. What's going on?

spk_0:   31:53
Right, right. And that, actually, this this is Segway ing pretty nicely into this next question that I had that I wanted to talk about. Um, because you know, when I when I describe the field of psychology and and childhood trauma and stuff like that again, I'm not the expert, I just bring them on and learn from them. Um, but you know, psychology prior to all of this neurobiology and research that is new, You know, it was really founded in an awful lot of theoretical approaches and that there's a, you know, a hiss, a history Over the last 100 plus years that psychology kind of became like a real field of study, of competing theories on what's being, you know, What's this cause and what? Why do we feel this way and why does this happen? And you know, is that our mothers, Is it or not our mothers or whatever? Um, and what neurobiology is is beginning to do is, um, you know, you actually have things that in the world of physics, we go from theory to basically laws where there is the law of gravity, you know, that thing that we know actually exists with with complete certainty and in psychology that were never really any laws of anything. But now neurobiology is starting. Thio, I think you know what? I couldn't tell you what any of the laws are, but I think you're starting to find that there are certainties now in brain development. Where's before we had to rely on speculation and stuff like that? Um, one of the theories that's still very strong out there and which was developed in the 19 thirties by John Balbi, which is the in psychology, is called The attachment theory, which is that, um, the theory is, is that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical Thio, eh? Persons development in there in that that those early stages, like you, talked about those very early years of this brain development stage. Have you seen anything in neuroscience that supports this? Because I've read some researchers, you know, from the psychology end of it, like the Minnesota Longitudinal Study, which is a 30 year study from, like, three months before birth to like, 30 years old. And it's pretty astounding that they've been able to kind of validated in that way. But how about neuroscience in neurobiology? Anything that you guys have seen or witness that may also kind of support this theory.

spk_1:   34:11
Yeah, you know, I think that is one of the areas where these sort of new tools that we have are going to be ableto let us get into that question even better, Like what is going on in the brain of a child or what are the differences and structure are architecture of the brain. Andi, I think that that is, um, you know, really, uh, emerging field. So there's been some famous studies, um, looking at Children who were raised in Romanian orphanages. Are you familiar with these studies at all?

spk_0:   34:48
Certainly nothing.

spk_1:   34:49
We did hear it. I love

spk_0:   34:50
yeah, room. And

spk_1:   34:51
so I thought, this is looking a little bit more at you know, the flip side of what happens when these Children in these orphanages were experience severe neglect. Um, you know, they were left in cribs and only, you know, picked up very infrequently, had very little parental care. And so they've been able to follow some of the Children that grew up in these orphanages and to see what happened in their adult lives. And they're able to see there are some some differences in the brain and certainly differences. And, um, they're responsive, dress different issues throughout their lives. So, you know, prior to that, that's been sort of the major study of looking at the flip side of that of like, what happens when their riel severe, extremely severe neglect that goes on. Um, but this idea of looking at what exactly is happening during perhaps, ah, secure attachment. Where there's this nice interaction between parent and child, you know, the child is able Thio. There's a classic study looking at attachment, which is the strange situation. Have you heard of the strange?

spk_0:   36:01
Yeah, stranger.

spk_1:   36:04
Yeah. Yeah. So there's a There's a study where there's many, many rounds of this, but essentially, ah, parent and child are playing in a room. Um, and then the parent leaves, and then a researcher watches to see what happens. What is the child? D'oh when they're left in the room on what happens when a stranger walks into the room and leave? And then what happens when, um, the parent comes back home? And in the secure attachment, the child who might have been a little bit alarmed when the parent leaves or the stranger comes in, they will seek attention from their parent, calm himself down and then go back to playing Andi. So, you know, this has been around for quite a long period of time, and I think there is sort of the tools to look at what, what's going on from a no biological basis there, Um, this is a long way of answer your question to say I'm not I'm not sure of the specific neural biological mechanism, but I think this this overlay of the many different techniques of looking at hormones of looking at brain development of looking at brain function will give us some of those answers in the next few years.

spk_0:   37:13
Awesome. Well, that's great. Um, you know, I have a lot of guests on the show that are mostly psychologist and authors and And what not? And you know, many of them have used the phrase ology that we're wired to connect when we're Children. That are baseline function is that we seek a connection, this emotional connection to someone caregivers, family members and things like that, which then can be the kind of the you know, it's a good thing. But then it also is why, you know, traumatic experiences could be even more so, Um, what does that actually mean? This wire to connect? Is there a Is there a narrow biological definition of how that looks?

spk_1:   37:55
Yeah. You know, I think that, um, again, the neurobiology of this sort of we're sort of in the in between rounds of psychology and neurobiology. And how does how do those two field interface and connect and understanding? How do you build on the knowledge of one field with the knowledge of the other? But you know it. It's true. Children are born wanting to have this social interaction. And one of the earlier studies of one of the co directors of our research lab, Dr Andrew Melton, did the study. It was back in the seventies, and he what he did is he basically went to hospitals and with parents permission made faces at newborn babies in it, and he stuck his tongue out. He opened his mouth. He person left. He made these faces that newborn babies can physically make. And sure enough, many babies. Not all babies but many babies within hours of first made those facial expressions right back at him. And this is one of the studies that really shift it, start to shift the field of developmental psychology of saying, Oh, Children are born wanting to be a part of a conversation, right? This is long before that they know what a tongue is or a mouth or who you are, but they really are born ready, like biologically ready to start having that back and forth interaction that we know is so fundamentally important for child development. And so, to a certain extent that suggest that the biology is there, right? So somehow in our brains, the Children are able Thio underst stand that you have a tongue and I have a tongue and I want to connect with you. And so I'm gonna do the same thing that you're doing. And in fact, we're using some of those new tools the Magneto and Cephalon Graffiti or M E G toe. Look at this. So we're able to put a newborn infants into these machines. And this is another experiment, but sort of based around touch. And we're able to see that when babies watch another video of another person's hand being touched or a foot being touched, similar regions in their own brain light up regions that respond to their own hand in their own foot on the news. They're very young babies, and so you can see from a very young age. Babies are born with the neural biological structures to be able to recognize, um, their own hand and somebody else's hand and that those are related. Um, and this is one of the very first studies toe Look at that kind of related nous on neuro biological function. But you can see it sort of setting the stage for understanding better. Well, what What is that, really? Me and wired to connect. What? What is wired? What is there? And that's just one tiny, tiny little piece of, um, our experience. But, um, touches really powerful one of the first wave we communicate and connect and that, um, no biological network is set up. And then you will be fascinating to see how that develops and how that sort of integrates into a sense itself.

spk_0:   41:11
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, as you talked to you earlier, you know about those distinct phases of brain development and that, you know, the synapses have to be formed. Then I mean it. It's intuitive that the only way you get those experiences is there's got to be some activity. So you, um, you know are subconsciously I guess, reaching for that activity that that connection, like I need Thio as an infant, not thinking about it, But I need to be responsive to my environment. Because if I don't, then I'm not giving the signals back that are going to be forming. You know, the synapses in things and so that you know, that that makes complete sense. Um, so because a piece, you know, a big part of the of the show and at least I mean, you know, we all have our purpose in life and one of mine, you know, that I feel I bestowed it upon myself. Um is to help, you know, engage this discussion. You know, you've talked a lot about how you know, this is about our brains forming there based on the experiences that we have. And you know, many adults, you know, I'm one of them included that ah, have been in the process of undoing and, you know, re pruning again. Um, the you know, some of the experiences that I had that had negative impacts and consequences on, you know, my own brain development in terms of emotional responses and emotional regulation and things like that. And so those are called childhood trauma, their child to trauma experiences. And they don't mean in the case of the brain that I mean you were hit up over the head or, you know, you know, beaten or anything like that. I mean, it can be, um, but how do neuroscientists do You guys define trauma and this concept of traumatic experiences and tragic or adverse childhood experiences differently than psychologists do.

spk_1:   42:53
I think that this is an area where there is a lot of, um, uh, intersection on. So I think both psychologists and neuroscientists and physicians think about trauma in a similar way, particularly recently as we have more and more information. Um, thinking about what are the effects of, um, what are the, uh, you know, throat downstream effects of that trauma? And I think from a neuroscience perspective and perhaps the medical perspective we focused a lot on what are the physical effects, what are the psychological effects? And then we'll look at what's actually happening in the biology. So is there an elevated stress or does our stress response system has that been changed? Somehow? There's a very famous aces study looking at adverse childhood experiences, and there are distinct and measurable health outcomes for ah um, Children who have experienced childhood trauma. There's increased rate of heart disease and diabetes and depression. So there's the sort of riel measurable health outcomes. And I think that is where often neurobiologists and Dr sort of land, when we were thinking about trauma is the physical outcomes. But of course, that in our sex with psychology as well, so interconnected. But perhaps with the ship towards looking at what? What are those physical biomarkers of trauma? And I think that that is an area that is people are really excited about an active area of research. How can we, you know, look for some of those biomarkers biological indicators of trauma and then how can we work, help treat those? And that is gonna be a combination of, you know, looking at both medicine and psychology together

spk_0:   44:54
right now. You had said earlier that when the when we're talking about, you know, those connections be informed that our experiences conform new ones or strengthen, um, connections and in the field and looking at trauma um, a traumatic experience can weaken a connection. Is that true?

spk_1:   45:14
I think it could. I think it depends on it depends on the trauma. You know, I think similarly to anything about like a child with autism. everyone has their own particular traumas, and that experience of trauma is unique to that one particular person. So what may have x happened for one person may be very different for another person, right? So if we think about maybe the memory of that experience for one person is incredibly strong, and they will never forget it, maybe for another person they have to have a block on that and don't remember that experience. But there are other traces of it. Um, I think traumas can really affect our bodies and our brains, and that can show up in many different ways and in many different forms. And that kind of be part of the challenge of working with people who have experienced trauma and, in fact, that the really active field in child development now and, um, early learning and care is thinking about trauma informed care for little ones. So Children who have experienced trauma, how do they show up in classrooms? What are the signs? And then how can we create environments to support them and help them? And sometimes, um, Children have experienced trauma, They might be really quiet on getting, you know, quietly reading a book in the back of the classroom. And so a teacher might not think, Oh, perhaps that child has experienced trauma or they might be really loud and, um, sort of seen as a troublemaker Come. And the teacher may not know that they have X trauma and might not respond to that sort of trouble making behavior in a way that is going to help that child feel safe and protected.

spk_0:   47:04
So the brain let's actually we kind of jumped into all of this really awesome stuff. But, you know, let's offer for people out there that don't know how the brain is actually like what the parts of the brain are and what the main functions of the brain are. Can you kind of walk through because I've heard the brain is like a three part animal? Um, you know, in terms of the prefrontal core attacks and you know, people call it the monkey brain and the scientists brain or whatever it is that can you break down like how the brain, actually, what are the different parts of the brain and how they all kind of worked together?

spk_1:   47:37
Sure. Yeah. So, um, there is a sort of popular idea of these three different parts of the brain on what we think about the brain stem. So that is part of our brain that keeps us alive. Basically, so breathing heart rate, those sort of essential functions. On Ben, you sort of have mid brain regions that, um our ah lot of there are just a lot of different tiny pieces of the brain. Um, uh, parts of the brain that are important for, um um forming memories or, um, are regulating our hunger or are different drives of kind of kind of pieces on. And then there is the cortex, which is the part of the brain that you see, if you were to, you know, take out a brain and look at it. You would see that the cortex, that sort of people e wrinkled part on the top. And I think there is some. There are different functions in these different regions of the brain. But for me, how I liketo approach it is to think about all of the interconnections between those pieces, so one piece cannot really exist without the other. And there are all of these interconnections between the different regions of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, which is the very front part of the brain. We talk about this a lot. That is a region that is really important for, um, the suite of skills called Executive Functioning Skills. So that is being able to pay attention and focus control are impulsive short term memory, um, thinking flexibly. Those sort of skills are sort of related to the front part of the brain, but at the same time, they're networked with all of these different regions of the brain. We can have experiences when you know we're really startled or afraid or anxious where perhaps we're not thinking as clearly so we might not be as able to focus on a task right so that part of the brain might not be as active, and we might be sort of using some of those other regions of our brain. However, it's not like a like an on and off, which is not quite as segmented as I think. Sometimes it's made out to be. It's all interconnected, but it is important to think about their distinct regions, and then they're all working together on DDE. Where and how are we processing those different thoughts,

spk_0:   50:16
Okay. Now, that kind of helps lead us into the term neural plasticity, which is, you know, to me, that's the It's the word that I always hang hope on. And you had mentioned this earlier there that, you know, our brain isn't a fixed state. It's always changing and moving. So explain what neuro plasticity means.

spk_1:   50:38
Yeah. So neural plasticity is this idea that, um we are able throughout our lives to change how the neurons in our brain connect. So this is one of those sort of new pieces that neuroscience is really excited about. And different is a difference from how we first understood the brain. You know, we, um for a long time, we thought that, you know, we had all the brain cells we're ever gonna have. If we lose one, they're not gonna come back. And what you have

spk_0:   51:10
is

spk_1:   51:10
what you get and work totally fixed after a certain point and development. But that is really not the case. So neural plasticity is the idea that we can change how the connections in our brain, our connect and when you think about these periods, I'm talking earlier about you know, blooming and pruning in the brain. So their periods where there is a lot of neural plasticity where we're rapidly changing which cells are connecting and how strong those connections are. And those are the period when, um, we are most sensitive toe learning from our environment what we would call a sensitive period. There's a lot of neural plasticity happening. However, that doesn't mean that we can't learn something new at a different point in our life. Think about language learning,

spk_0:   51:59
for

spk_1:   51:59
example, so Children are amazing at learning languages. It almost appears effortless. I can learn one language to language is three languages. They're incredible at learning language, that sort of the sensitive period for them to learn a new language. Um, but learning a new language as an adult is more difficult, right? Um, I don't know if you've ever tried to learn a second language or third language as an adult, but it's more challenging.

spk_0:   52:26
Yeah, it is because yeah,

spk_1:   52:29
yeah, anything like that, in part because no, no, that's great. That's a great example. That's in part because our brain isn't quite open to those experiences. However, we can still learn how to play a piano as adults, we can still learn a second language of an adult. It's probably gonna take us longer. We're probably gonna have to repeat those experiences more in orderto tell our brains to shift those connections or to form new connections. But we can always learn something new. And I think that that that is a really good thing to remember because it can be a little disheartening, right? The first time you sit down for the second time or the, you know, 100 time you sit down at the piano and you're like, Oh, man, I like, Why's it coming to me? It's like, Well, you're rewiring your brain. It takes a little bit longer, but you can do it. Um, so I think that that kind of fun thing to keep in mind, I'm actually rewiring how my brain works. And I can do that at any age for any skill.

spk_0:   53:25
Yeah, and in the reason why I and I thank you for defining that Because and I bring it up because in the in the world of psychology and a therapeutic process, where if you know your traumatic experiences have formed synapses and that you're using, you know that are creating an auto pilot, so to speak, because there is an autopilot function to how we operate. You know that those experiences, ah, you know, put together, you know, with the world how the brain views the world and what the world you know. And it's shaping you for your world as you move on. Even if that's not the same. You know, conditions that you're gonna grow up on, define it. And sometimes they're in conflict. You get to be adult, and you're just like why? Why do these things still scare me? Why do I feel anxious? Why do I feel you know all of these things that may have been symptomatic of those the culmination of the experiences you know and trauma? Not everybody has the same levels of trauma, and some are more traumatic than others and and what they are varies. But going, knowing that that the brain is not a fixed state, that you can't actually work, and it may be hard. And in some cases, I imagine there's some impossibilities in there. There's some things that you can't d'oh! But that is tthe e. That is the benefit of understanding. You know where it is that you are psychologically, and to know that they're there is possibility. Like I said, that's my It's my word of hope, you know, that threw it through a rigorous psychological therapeutic process, maybe even some self help. If you could do it, you can't actually start to kind of prune and weed out some of the stuff, you know that. Ah, got connected together. Maybe improperly, maybe the light switch over in that corner. You needed it to come on, you know, and that light doesn't need to work over there in the house. And now you can actually find a way to make that happen.

spk_1:   55:12
Yeah. And you know, one of the ways that I like to talk about Trauma two is to think about, um in some ways, you know, as humans, we are born to survive and hopefully thrive and whatever environment were born into. And some of us have experiences that are traumatic. And so our little brain, um, made the connections that were important for us to survive in that environment, right? These patterns of behavior, those were that was our brain trying to protect us trying to help us survive and thrive. So that can also be another way to think about it. When you're thinking about trauma. Is that you know, it's not necessarily that it is the wrong connection. That was the right connections for that time, right? That

spk_0:   56:00
might And this is

spk_1:   56:01
a child survive a really challenging situation. But those might be the very same connections that make it more difficult, as you were talking about, um, Thio survive and thrive as an adult, right? And then they become no longer the right connections for us, right? So, yes, neural plasticity can't allow us to re change. Retooled of patterns of behavior is gonna be hard. I have to do it over and over and over and over again. But for sure that potential is they're

spk_0:   56:26
awesome. And that's a great clarification. Amelia, I appreciate you you doing that? So, yes, you're right. What was how we were surviving? His child definitely was the right thing at the right time for us to be able to get through that. So I appreciate that explanation. So let's talk about I labs and the research that you guys are working on its university of Washington around this area.

spk_1:   56:48
Yeah. So, um, the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and we're a research institute at the University of Washington. I'm in the study early childhood learning and brain development on we're co directed by Dr Andrew Melts Off and Patricia Cool. And they have really dedicated their lives on their work Thio understanding how Children develop and what's going on in their brains. And they have been at this for many, many years. And, um, you know, I've looked at Children's behavior structure of their brain function of their brain, and we focused on, uh, Children ages 0 to 5. But that standing, we really focus on the early period of development and thinking about how is the brain being set up? Thio have Children thrive in the world. So my role here I'm part of the outreach and education team. Um, and we're a team of, um we're all trained scientists, and our whole job is to take the science of child development and put it into the hands of people that can use it on people who are working with Children. People who, uh, are thinking about policy issues. People who have podcast. People who are once Children themselves getting the information

spk_0:   58:18
out,

spk_1:   58:18
folks that, um that can use this to make a difference in the lives of Children. And we do this through a rite of different ways. Talks workshop. We have a whole series of, um, free online training module, um, that you confined at our website, where if you're interested in a particular topic in early childhood development, we mentioned Attachment. For example, we have a few different modules that you can learn a little bit more about the science behind attachment or learning more than one language or, um, music or talking to your kids about race. We have all of these free training module that's on us. Things that we d'oh. So if folks want to check those out there, welcome to

spk_0:   59:03
cool. That's awesome. Well, Amelia, this has been amazing. I really appreciate. Like I said, you being able to take the time to talk with me about this. I think it is important because there is an intersection now, in our time of psychology and the neurobiology that you know Scarlett O'Hara back in 2009 and and g I. Joe was wrong. Um that that emotions have their we can We can talk about this thing, that there are this There are these genuine connections out there, and it's emerging and new. Um, and I noticed that, you know, when I was looking through I labs, you know the urgency there is almost in urgent nature, right? In terms of research, because the more you find out, the more you start scratching away, the more you realize what we don't know and how important it is to probably figure it out. So I value the work that you guys d'oh! There with University of Washington in the organization. I thank you so much for the time that you took to be able to come out here and talk with me and hopefully educate some other people on the on the realm of neuroscience and neurobiology. And so I'm grateful. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you. My pleasure. It's been great talk with you today. Cool. Thank you for listening to one broken Mom. You confined podcast notes on my website at me square coney dot com. And they're all provide all links. All of the resources that we mentioned on the episode also if you have any questions? Comments for ideas for other episodes. Feel free to send me an email. And if you're interested in sponsoring the show, I'd love to have you be a part of the team. Finally, if you like what you hear, please share the podcast and leave a review so that others find it. You're all here to get better together. I am the host of Meet Marconi. And, as always, I am super grateful to have you as a listener until next time. Have a great day, Uh