Victoria’s Daughters

7th March 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

Victoria’s Daughters, by Jerrold Packard.  Historians and writers understandably like to focus on Queen Victoria, whose lengthy reign had such an impact on Great Britain and Europe. (Long ago, we read and enjoyed Stanley Weintraub’s Victoria—many a biography has come out since.) But Packard instead focuses on Victoria’s daughters who, largely through their inheritance of the gene for hemophilia, passed like battering rams through the royal houses of Europe, among other effects, squarely taking out the Romanov dynasty and setting in motion the communist revolution. Victoria’s ill-fated grandson Kaiser Wilhelm suffered injuries during birth which appear to have affected his cognition—what would the world have been like without this key figure in the launch of WWI? Victoria and Albert’s great intentions to do good, through the vicissitudes of fate, spun off into sometimes shocking disarray. A memorable book.

Dyscalculia Interventions

Here’s an excellent overview of dyscalculia, and the lack of expertise in diagnosing the condition as compared to, for example, dyslexia. We do take a bit of a side issue with the article’s ending statement that dyscalculia is a lifelong condition—matters may sometimes be more hopeful than that. Research by Michels, O’Gorman, and Kucian, Functional hyperconnectivity vanishes in children with developmental dyscalculia after numerical interventions,” showed that “children with developmental dyscalculia exhibited abnormally high hyperconnectivity in the frontal, parietal, temporal, and visual regions prior to the training; in other words, they were engaging too many brain regions when attempting to order numerals.” After training, those with dyscalculia become indistinguishable from the control group. The authors concluded that “number line training normalized the… prior aberrant neural activity and efficiency and generated widespread changes across the distributed brain regions involved…”  (Cognitive Foundations for Improving Mathematical Learning, Geary, Berch, Koepke,  pp. 16-17) The key to all this, of course, is early intervention when dyscalculia is suspected.

Here also is an article describing how reform math educators may be rethinking some of their approaches as a result of insights from neuroscience about helping children with learning disabilities. If so, bravo!

Do You Know a Youngster Who Loves Learning About Animals?

Check out the books by children’s author Jennifer Keats Curtis. She has books on everything from salamanders to owls to squirrels, and much more!

Noise, Learning, and Restaurants

We love learning from our friends as we travel around the world. One thing that’s taken us aback, however, is that it’s hard to learn from someone if you can’t hear them—which is often the case in restaurants. In fact, noise can make it hard to comprehend anything at all. (This paper, “The effects of classroom noise on the reading comprehension of adolescents,” gives a sense of related findings). We recently were in an excellent, but memorably painful curry house in London where the noise was so loud that the waiter could only shrug helplessly as we shouted our orders (“I’ve worked here too long,” he shouted in return, “I’m deaf.”) We also had a fine dinner in The Lamb, a small Victorian pub with a no-music policy. Much as we love music, we loved The Lamb as much for its advertisement of relative peace as for its great food!

Anyway, this is all a long lead up to this excellent, timeless article by Julia Belluz in Vox on noise in restaurants.

Not All Sleep Is Equal When It Comes to Cleaning the Brain

We’ve long known that sleep is integral to being able to learn well. But now researchers are beginning to discover that the depth of sleep has an effect on how well your brain can wash away waste and toxic proteins. As this Science Daily article reveals: “Because sleep often becomes increasingly lighter and more disrupted as we become older, the study reinforces and potentially explains the links between aging, sleep deprivation, and heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease.” The article goes on to note: “The synchronized waves of neural activity during deep slow-wave sleep, specifically firing patterns that move from front of the brain to the back, coincide with what we know about the flow of [cerebral spinal fluid] in the glymphatic system…It appears that the chemicals involved in the firing of neurons, namely ions, drive a process of osmosis which helps pull the fluid through brain tissue.” [Hat tip: Jennifer Curtis]

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team



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