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Sculpting The Infant Brain For a Digital Future

"Brain cells remain alive only if they can prove their worth in dealing with the baby's physical and social surroundings."

Dave Swindle


April 21, 2012 - 10:30 am

Social experience literally shapes critical details of brain physiology, sculpting an infant’s brain to fit the culture into which the child is born. Six-month-olds can hear or make every sound in virtually every human language. But within a mere four months, nearly two-thirds of this capacity has been cut  away. The slashing of ability is accompanied by ruthless alterations in cerebral tissue. Brain cells remain alive only if they can prove their worth in dealing with the baby’s physical and social surroundings. Half the brain cells we are born with rapidly die. The 50 percent of neurons which thrive are those which have shown they come in handy for coping with such cultural experiences as crawling on the polished mud floor of a straw hut or navigating on all fours across wall-to-wall carpeting, of comprehending a  mother’s words, her body language, stories, songs, and the concepts she’s  imbibed from her community. Those nerve cells stay alive which demonstrate that they can cope with the quirks of strangers, friends, and family. The 50 percent of neurons which remain unused are literally forced to commit preprogrammed cell death suicide. The brain which underlies the mind is jigsawed like a puzzle piece to fit the space it’s given by its  loved ones and by the larger framework of its culture’s patterning.

Howard Bloom, Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century

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What does it mean for the future that today children will learn to use iPhones before they learn to speak?

David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media. He writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, religion, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section and the PJ columnists. Contact him at DaveSwindlePJM @ and follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He has worked full-time as a writer, editor, blogger, and New Media troublemaker since 2009, at PJ Media since 2011. He graduated with a degree in English (creative writing emphasis) and political science from Ball State University in 2006. Previously he's also worked as a freelance writer for The Indianapolis Star and the film critic for He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their Siberian Husky puppy Maura.
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