As a research neuroscientist, Lise Eliot has made the study of the human brain her life's work. But it wasn't until she was pregnant with her first child that she became intrigued with the study of brain development.
She wanted to know precisely how the baby's brain is formed, and when and how each sense, skill, and cognitive ability is developed. And just as important, she was interested in finding out how her role as a nurturer can affect this complex process. How much of her baby's development is genetically ordained--and how much is determined by environment? Is there anything parents can do to make their babies' brains work better--to help them become smarter, happier people?
Drawing upon the exploding research in this field as well as the stories of real children, What's Going On in There? is a lively and thought-provoking book that charts the brain's development from conception through the critical first five years.
In examining the many factors that play crucial roles in that process, What's Going On in There? explores the evolution of the senses, motor skills, social and emotional behaviors, and mental functions such as attention, language, memory, reasoning, and intelligence. This remarkable book also discusses:
how a baby's brain is "assembled" from scratch
the critical prenatal factors that shapebrain development
how the birthing process itself affects the brain
which forms of stimulation are most effective at promoting cognitive development
how boys' and girls' brains develop differently
how nutrition, stress, and other physical and social factors can permanently affect a child's brain
Brilliantly blending cutting-edge science with a mother's wisdom and insight, What's Going On in There? is an invaluable contribution to the nature versus nurture debate. Children's development is determined both by the genes they are born with and the richness of their early environment. This timely and important book shows parents the innumerable ways in which they can actually help their children grow better brains.
With impressive depth and clarity, Eliot, a neuroscientist and mother of three, offers a comprehensive overview of current scientific knowledge about infant and early childhood brain development. Beginning with a richly detailed yet accessible tour of the growing embryo, she guides the reader through the sensory, motor, emotional and cognitive systems as they develop. She builds up a versatile toolbox of scientific concepts and vocabulary as she goes, outlining entire neuroscientific subfields with remarkable efficiency. Along the way, Eliot presents research results on almost every conceivable topic of interest to the curious parent, from the potential dangers of VHF exposure in utero to sex differences in olfaction after birth (females have a better sense of smell than males), to the fascinating possibility that birth is triggered by a hormonal cascade in the baby's brain. While Eliot does not scruple to offer parenting advice where she finds it appropriate (e.g., she advocates breast-feeding), she meticulously avoids comment on thornier social and ethical issues. Her neutral tone can be disturbing at times, as when she admits positive correlations between socio-economic status and IQ or details Nobel prize-winning research into binocularity that involved sewing kittens' eyes shut at birth, without reference to animal rights objections. Eliot's confidence in the open-minded interest of her readers makes this a good bet for scientifically oriented parents who want to grasp how a child's mind develops. All in all, this is popular science at its best.