Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More on old genes in the modern world

For anyone who wants to learn more about how modern life may be changing our minds, check out the talk I gave at TEDx Hendrix College in April. In addition to nearsightedness and outdoor play, I also discuss TV and baby videos, video games, multitasking, and the global increase in IQ over recent decades (aka the Flynn effect).

Nearsightedness: Ancient genes meet the modern world

In today's New York Times, Sandra and I have a piece on the modern increase in nearsightedness. We relied on research findings indicating that a likely cause is decreased exposure to bright, outdoor light. For a sampling, see the following papers on associations with outdoor activity, whether sports plays a role, lifestyle/schooling, and visual activity.. Also an article on the rising prevalence of myopia in the US.

There's a more general idea worth thinking about: our developmental program evolved to help us function well under ancient conditions, but those genes play differently in the modern world. This principle can help us think about problems such as dyslexia and ADHD - and also about the fact that IQ scores around the world are rising. It's a two-sided coin.

Also, a postscript - another possible explanation is the relative abundance of "near work" indoors, since this work involves less distance focus. However, this is hard to square with the epidemiology because there's no effect on myopia of playing indoor sports, which you'd expect to encourage distant focus without bright light exposure.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Coming soon - Welcome To Your Child's Brain


This September, we've got a new book coming out -- Welcome To Your Brain: How The Mind Grows From Conception To College. Based on reading close to a thousand technical papers and analyzing the state of developmental neuroscience and psychology, we ended up finding out a lot that will interest -- and reassure -- parents. If you have a kid, or remember being one yourself, we hope this book will be for you.

Here's what some others have to say about the book:

"Dr. Wang and Dr. Aamodt playfully and engagingly introduce us to the hidden talents of our children's brains." — Mehmet Oz, M.D., Host of "The Dr. Oz Show"

"Fact-filled and fascinating, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain will answer many of parents’ most urgent questions. Neuroscientists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang present the real data that will help parents understand and nurture their children of all ages." — Lise Eliot, Ph.D., author of What’s Going On in There? and Pink Brain, Blue Brain

"Few humans are as neurotic as parents, frantic about the disastrous lifelong consequences of every errant hiccup. In this smart, funny, accessible and supremely sane book, Aamodt and Wang teach us that our supposed knowledge in this realm is riddled with urban myths and that a child's brain is tough and resilient in the face of adversity. This is a terrific, fun, educational book."- Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D., author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers