Development of the Brain
Compiled by Richard Kieninger
It is likely that only a
handful of people utilize the potential capacity built into their brains to perceive
the Universe in its fullness and to function wholly in the way intended by
our Angelic creators. To be Man is to think, and one's brain is a tool for
thinking. Anything that diminishes
one's brain power strikes at the core of one's intelligence and being
There is a misconception that we are born with a given intelligence and are fixed in a narrow range that is determined to he our IQ. Within all of us is the potential for genius. It is there for us to develop, to explore, and to enjoy. But unless we are taught how to use our brains, unless we understand how our brains work and their relationship to intelligence, we may never even approach truly intelligent functioning.
Your physical brain and intelligence both evolve through a series of stages from infancy to adulthood. The psychologist Jean Piaget differentiates four major stages in acquiring intelligence: the sensori-motor stage (1 to 11/2 years), the pre-operational stage (11/2 to 7 years), the concrete operation stage (7 to 11 years), and the stage of formal operations (11 to 13 years). According to Piaget, if a child does not have enough experience in any one of these stages, his development in the following stages will be handicapped. Insufficient experience in one of the stages of development might even prevent a child from reaching an adult level of capabilities. On the other hand, enriching a child's experience in one of the stages should aid his development of the following stages. Piaget feels that key concepts should not be taught to a child out of sequence. Instead, a child should learn these concepts in their natural order from his own experience with the world around him. Piaget fears that if a concept is learned out of its natural order, other concepts will be more difficult to learn since they will then rest on an artificial basis.
Jerome Bruner's work parallels Piaget's by showing how children learn concepts through feedback from what gets results early in the child's interaction with his environment. In Bruner's view, all the various stages of learning remain active and become a part of adult thinking rather than being largely superseded by the later stages. At the earliest stage, the infant tends to repeat an act because the experiences associated with it feel good, or to avoid an act because the experiences associated with it feel bad. Bruner suggests that a child's awareness and intelligence can be increased by teaching him appropriate concepts early in life. He asserts that a child can be taught any idea at any age as long as he is taught in his own vocabulary.
Jerome Kagan has made some interesting observations about the relationship between perception and the quality of the environment. He sees a need for developmental stimuli being orderly and distinctive. If stimuli stand out sharply from a calm background, as in many middle-class homes, perception of the stimuli is more likely. If, however, stimuli are immersed in competing and disagreeably noisy stimuli, which is frequently the case in many slum houses, perception and development may be turned off. Bruner suggests teaching key concepts to a child very early and reviewing them in gradually more sophisticated form as the child's vocabulary increases. By the time a child enters school, his brain and intelligence have almost finished growing, and his intelligence seems pretty well set for life.
Alfred Kuhn points out that we react to a situation not only on the basis of current information, but on the basis of the interaction between current information and prior information stored in the brain, thus activating codes at any one level which are required for operating at the next level. Therefore, the brain builds conceptual models by sorting information into categories to which we can assign and attach new information or decode and revise when one's present arrangement of concepts is contradicted by new information.
Early enrichment of developmental stages is a key element in the theories of Piaget, Bruner and Kuhn. Piaget suggests that enrichment of the early developmental stages should increase a child's ability to adapt to his environment. Bruner suggests that a child's awareness can be increased by teaching him appropriate concepts early in life. Kuhn points out the importance of a great deal of experience at each level of development—the more experience we have with the world around us, the more readily we can understand that world. Burton White's experiments with infants demonstrated that we must provide optimal environments at each stage of development. In short, a child should be provided with the experiences that will stimulate his brain and nervous system to work together most effectively so he can better relate to the general environment. These methods increase what we call intelligence.
There are children whose intelligence now tests in the range of genius, some of whom are now in schools for gifted children, who had been so heavily brain damaged, so mentally retarded, that their IQ could not he measured. They had been clinically regarded as human vegetables and pitied as mere lumps on the floor. Through intensive, special treatment, these children have exhibited great leaps in brain power spanning the difference in intelligence between the brightest and slowest persons most of us will ever encounter
To raise someone's intelligence is to let him become a more complete human being; to give him wider-ranging adaptability, heightened awareness and insight, more capacity to respond and courage to explore. All facets of human life benefit from higher intelligence, not just ability in school or job. Strength, sensitivity, zest, and the power to feel keenly and deeply are as much a part of intelligence as is the power to reason and symbolize. To raise a child's intelligence is to enrich his ability to taste more fully and richly the bittersweet, tragicomic, ugly-beautiful, enthralling, disappointing, exalting, and always fascinating experience of being human.
Nutritional and Psychological Enrichment
Every mode of behavior, response, and ability is based on the physical state of the brain and its physical processes. Researchers have determined that only those brain cells which are near to ample capillary blood supply are developed. Brain cells away from such source of supply remain undeveloped and useless. Albert Einstein's genius turned out to result largely from extra circulatory functioning in his brain. His brain, better nourished, worked better. A child's diet has much to do with whether he will grow up with a properly nourished brain which can function to optimum. Vitamins C and E improve oxygenation and are essential in sufficient quantity on a daily basis for a healthy brain. Vitamin B complex is essential for neuron growth and synaptic formation, and Choline (a B vitamin found primarily in lecithin) in large quantities on a daily basis facilitates the transmission of nerve signals and is a critical dietary need in infants.
Studies of children in orphanages show pitiful retardation which results from lack of environmental stimulus. Heredity can and does make key differences in one's potential intelligence, but it is largely overrated as compared to environment. For intelligence to grow, it must be given a psychologically nourishing environment. The Milwaukee (WI) Program run about a decade ago took Negro infants whose parents and siblings had IQs ranging in the 60's and provided them with a few hours every day of enriched stimulation and one-to-one cuddling and play by a trained adult. These same slum children continued in the program for a few years and eventually attained IQs more than double all the rest of their neglected siblings and deprived parents. The children who were the subjects of this experiment later could not fit in with their families and had to be removed to foster homes by the courts.
All of us basically want to perceive, to know, to be aware, to experience. We want to live, not just be pleased: The more completely we experience, the fuller our lives become. Society may have punished most of us into submerging our curiosity, our drive to know things, our unashamed appreciation of beauty, our readiness to come up with new ideas and new ways—but in almost none of us has society totally extinguished the basic wish and built-in drive to be sentient
The Tragedy of Brain Damage
Nearly all Americans are significantly brain damaged. Even in the better metropolitan hospitals, studies by Dr. Eugene Spita show that we are so badly damaged at birth that the brains of 80 percent of us bleed for hours afterward. Too early culling of the umbilical cord in hospital deliveries results in oxygen deprivation and massive brain-cell death in most cases. Poor nutrition of pregnant mothers plus poor nutrition through the life of the growing child prevent proper neurological growth. Developmentally we are damaged as well. Lack of neurological stimulation, inadequate emotional nourishment, and restriction of physical activity prevent natural brain growth and psychomotor muscle control.
High intelligence opens another world that is adventurous, fascinating, intricate, and incredibly beautiful. The vast majority of people never visit that world let alone function in it. Society needs more intelligent people. The world's average intelligence must be raised soon to provide answers and insights to solve our knotty problems. Your brain is the seat of everything you sense and experience on the physical plane. To get your brain and intelligence into high form and have sharpened comprehension is exhilarating. Moreover, the keener your brain functions, the better your whole body's health is, and vice versa.
Each time a person gets drunk, the alcohol usually kills many thousands of brain cells which cannot be regenerated. Your brain is the product of two billion years of sophisticated evolution on this planet Your brain determines what you are in this lifetime. Every time a person becomes intoxicated on alcohol or other dregs, he irretrievably wipes out a significant number of his brain cells. The Brotherhoods point out that one's attainment of mystic awareness and being able to function intelligently are dependent on especially healthy brain tissues which are enriched to maximum operation by abundant nutrients and oxygen. This is exactly the opposite from alkalinizing diets and other oxygen-deprivation techniques which are designed to produce blissful. floating, hallucinating states of consciousness. Semi-trance states may be popular, but they are counterproductive to advancement There are millions of Americans who rely on mind-dulling, anti-tension dregs and tranquilizers, and millions more who suffer lassitude and chronic fatigue from too much white sugar. Smoking tobacco creates a continuous level of carbon-monoxide in the bloodstream, which gives the effect of chronic anemia and consequent shortage of oxygen to the brain. Are we so dulled by these brain crippling habits that we can't stop continuing to destroy ourselves and our youngsters?
Creeping and Crawling Into the Future
Dr. Raymond Dart has explored primitive and advanced cultures and has observed that tribes whose infants crawl and creep around on floor or ground tend to have advanced cultures and technology and some form of written language. Tribes which restrict their infants from crawling and creeping remain very backward, have no writing, learn reading when taught but only with the greatest difficulties, and literally cannot see within arm's length even though there is nothing physically wrong with their eyes. The creeping infant is training his eyes to work together at arm's length—the distance at which he will later read and write, perform arts and crafts, build and manipulate tools, and plan and create civilization.
Many Americans have not received full stimulus for development of the vision circuits in the brain because they were restricted to a playpen or crib or were not permitted to crawl on the dirty floor or on the lawn. It turns out that children suffering from Mongoloidism are not born with brain damage, but their extremely placid nature keeps them from moving and therefore from developing their brain's potential. Such infants placed on programs of intensive sensori-motor exercise are growing up with average intelligence and respiratory health and even lose the Mongoloid features associated with Down's Syndrome victims. Some treated in the 1950's attended college.
Infantile movement is vital to vision and subsequent intelligence, for brain cells simply do not develop without stimulus. Brain development is especially stimulated by feedback through the child's senses of the effects produced by the child's own activities. It is the feedback from the activities of infancy that, by far, most develops the brain. To produce super-bright intelligence, investigators have discovered that the most creative way to develop the brain is to provide an infant with enriched stimulation and thus obtain more sensory feedback from the infant's sensori-motor activities. A quick overview of the construction and evolution of the brain will help to show why this works to produce genius.
The earliest vertebrates were the fish, and all the brain they needed was the spinal cord and medulla. That cord and medulla are all the baby has effectively working once he has come out of his fishlike existence in the sea of the womb. All other levels of his brain have yet to continue to grow more cells and to further differentiate; and they will also have to be developed by experience step by step as the child's physical and neurological growth sequentially come to the point of readiness.
Atop the medulla and cord is the pons, that portion of our brain which was developed in the first land animals. While the medulla registers sense impressions most primitively, reacting to alternation only (changes in light and dark, in sound levels, in tactile/touch impressions), the pons handles sense inputs at a much more sophisticated level. The pons can perceive differences in light value within the same visual field so that outlines can be seen. The pons can also perceive some basic patterns in sound and touch and other senses. In the earliest primitive mammals whose live-born young had to make it to the milk line and hang on to survive, the pons took on a precocious motor function which it retains to the human level—crawling stomach to ground at birth. If not encouraged to crawl when most ready, the human infant may miss the crawling stage altogether, going on much later to hands-and-knees creeping, thus leaving his pons poorly developed and handicapping to some degree all his later development.
Adapting to the Third Dimension
Enclosing the medulla and pons is the midbrain, first developed in the reptiles. Competition on land, at that stage of evolution, had gotten a lot tougher, and to capture prey and to escape being preyed on, the reptiles found it dangerously slow to continue sliding around on their bellies. The reptiles mastered a third dimension—the vertical—by getting up to move and run on all fours. Except for the much later developments of simian swinging from branch to branch and of upright walking on the hind legs (cortex functions), most physical coordination is learned at the midbrain level.
The evolution of mammals through our arboreal progenitors up to man called for the evolution of the human cortex, capable of adapting its creature to almost anything. The demands placed on the cortex are so drastic and so varied that 90 percent of all human brain cells are in the cortex. Although our Creators endowed our cortex with fabulous potentials, and our environment is full of beneficial stimuli, and our civilization has harnessed an incredible wealth of information, our cortexes still are not developed to full functioning. That is because full development of each of the lower stages is prerequisite for development of the next, higher stages of the human brain, but our culture is not attuned to the needs of infancy and has traditionally, but hopefully unintentionally, subverted children's growth. Only by fully developing a given stage of a child's brain growth is the next stage allowed to develop richly and well; poor development of or injury to one stage means that the next stage (and, consequently, all higher stages) can only develop poorly. Cure of mal-development at higher stages depends on reaching the lower-level deficiencies, feeding in enough experience at this lower level to bridge those deficiencies, and then pouring in more experience at successively higher levels to make up their deficiencies in turn. The reason that our information-rich environment doesn't better develop our cortex is that our lower brain levels are so poorly developed, and those deprived levels were essential to the development of the next higher levels.
The Sky Is the Limit
Full development of the cortex proceeds from enriched stimulation of all the lower levels starting in infancy. If there is any limit to how far higher development of the cortex can go, no one has yet discovered it. One of the requisites to Egoic advancement and full perception of the Universe is a magnificently functioning brain. Let us dedicate ourselves to producing a generation of children in whom neurologically perfect brains, developed through proper stimuli, are theirs to soar with.
We know that an infant benefits immensely from much body contact with his mother and that he is stimulated in many necessary ways while nursing at his mother's breast and focusing on her face. This contact fosters a sense of security, and mother provides a source of interaction as well as oral satisfactions and pleasurable filling of the hungry stomach. The child also needs to be encouraged to experiment and explore his immediate environment other than his mother's body. Being in an open-sided cradle, where baby can observe mother in her household activities, and which will rock as a result of his own kicking and arm movements, gives him feedback sensations due to actions baby initiates. The cradle can be fitted with a mobile of brightly colored objects which jiggle and tinkle when he moves. A string of randomly flashing Christmas tree lights placed in different patterns around the child and turned on for about an hour per evening while he is awake during his first two weeks has a tremendously positive effect on later intelligence (a strobe light is detrimental). Fortunate is the infant whose room is subtly lighted by the sun shining through tree leaves blown by the breeze, or whose walls are lit by shimmering reflections off of wavelets in a nearby pool or lake. These; are growth experiences for the medulla, the pivotal foundation of the brain; for the medulla senses alternation, light and dark, shifts in color, primitive motion, warm and cool, pressures and release of pressures. All these should be pleasurable sensations to the infant, and pleasure sensitizes as well as encourages desire for even more experiences. Of course, loud noises, bright lights, and rough handling are frightening to an infant and should be avoided. An infant has an especially rich sensitivity to flavors, and his first solid foods should not be bland but subtly flavored with mild herbs and spices; but avoid putting salt and sugar in his food. Classical music is enjoyable and growth engendering to infants.
The special motor activity controlled by the pons (the brain level next above the medulla) proves to be crucial to further development of the medulla. Crawling stomach to the floor, the head turning from side to side, provides alternation in the senses of sight, sound, touch, and the kinesthetic sense of body position. More important, crawling provides this alternation in the form of feedback from the total sensori-motor patterns of movement, and this makes crawling a most powerful brain developer. In turn, the medulla's experience of shifting impressions in each of the senses teaches the pons to sense recognizable patterns in sound, touch, taste, smell, position, and combinations of these. Among the combinations of special import to human beings is the medulla's accumulation of visual, touch, and position impressions that first enable the pons to begin tracking both eyes together on the hands or on other moving objects. Most deficiencies in the adult pons stem from being too constricted and under-stimulated as an infant. Vision is highly important in the development of the pons. Crawling, which links the left hand to the left eye and the right hand to the right eye, is essential to the pons as well as to the medulla. Therefore, crawling is an important activity for pons development
Midbrain to the Rescue
To the degree that a child adds to his brain's capacity for handling things in fine detail, he extends significantly the range, content, quantity, quality, subtlety, depth, value, and import of the information which his brain can handle. The midbrain takes the general commands and decisions made in the cortex and breaks these down into millions of more specific commands to many separate muscles. Carrying out the simplest actions entails an incredibly complex coordination of large and fine motor activities of many muscles in precise timing. All this is done by the midbrain without our being conscious of how it's accomplished, but practice is required to carry it out effectively. Eye-hand coordination must be developed in the child from the very earliest discovery of his own hands to leaning how to walk and run. Then comes catching and throwing a ball plus other childhood games requiring muscle skills, rhythms, and stratagems. In order to refine eye-hand coordination in a small child, coloring books, doing needlepoint, balancing towers of blocks, and using building sets with small components all add attention to detail and add to micro-motor skills in arm and hand muscles which contribute to writing ability about age 3 1/2 years. Early refinement of such midbrain control gives the cortex a tremendous resource to deal through as it develops. Dexterity is one of the best indicators of the physical condition of the brain. The midbrain is employed by an infant to discover the vertical dimension, and the midbrain is also used to focus both eyes together to see in stereoptic depth. Of all of nature's programs for developing hand-eye coordination and stereo vision coordinated at arm's length, the most important one by far is hands-and-knees creeping.
Aside from creeping, a noteworthy function of the midbrain, which thrusts the child's experience into the vertical dimension, is that of balance. Swimming and gymnastics develop these powers of balance while also bringing more oxygen to the whole brain. Diving and swinging upside down are stimulating to a child's cerebellum, which specializes in balancing. This is a very large structure behind the midbrain, which has other interesting characteristics. Tissues in the cerebellum have a talent no other brain cells have—magnetic coil induction. In the rest of the brain, one brain cell can affect others or be affected by others only by specific links called synapses. Cerebellar cells not only relate through synaptic links but also wrap round other cells in coils so that the surge of electric current in one cell's firing affects by magnetic induction the electric state of other cells around which it is coiled. This characteristic serves the mystic.
As the child's cortex
begins to function, it takes him into the realm of the fourth dimension;
time. Man is the only animal who lives not only in the present but also
carries the experiences of the history of mankind as well as being able to
project past experiences into predictive patterns. Man can live in the past
and in the future. This ability involves memory and consciousness, but most
importantly language. Without language to describe what we encounter, we tend
not to perceive, notice, or think about it much at all. It cannot be
emphasized strongly enough that reading is good for you neurologically and in
terms of your mind's life. Nearly all the worthwhile experiences,
observations, ideas, feelings, and aspirations of the human race have been
recorded in print.
Language and reading occupy almost all the areas of the cortex. Another activity which involves much of the cortex is brachiation—hanging suspended and swinging from overhead handhold to overhead handhold. This ability uses complex cortex circuits which intimately involves every sense and many kinds of awareness, peripheral awareness, and coordination. It is hard to believe that brachiation can mean as much to your brain as it does. Yet brachiation, involving vast complexes throughout the cortex, was for millions of years the main method by which our progenitors moved around. Brachiation provides a vast ocean of experiences that human brains simply must undergo if they are to develop any reasonable portion of their potential for seeing, thinking, feeling, and being aware. It has been discovered that a person's ability to read is directly dependent on his experience of brachiation. It turns on more of the cortex than does any other activity. Walking and running serve as poor substitutes for brachiation; but without them, most of us would hardly be able to read at all. If schools were to include a vigorous regimen of brachiation, swimming, and hands-and-knees games for creeping in their physical education programs, they could drastically reduce reading problems among their students. An adult's success in life and his enjoyment of life's experiences and opportunities are dependent on his ability to read and become fully intelligent
Eaglets in the Making
Our not doing everything possible to enrich the lives of all human beings by malting them geniuses in a world full of geniuses is almost criminal. We know what builds intelligence and what undermines it. We can't envision a world of whole-functioning human beings because it hasn't been seen since Lemurian times. Yet, shall we not make giants and eagles of the next generation?