Author Archives: Margaret Elsa Lesser

Crystallizing your Intelligence Around Writing

I used to like writing a lot and be a pretty good writer, but recently I have felt like since I don’t use that skill as much, it has been getting a lot harder and less enjoyable, which is unfortunate.¬†This has made even short writing assignments for school the last few years a lot harder. I already decided to start writing more in my free time, even just writing activities in a journal, to hopefully fix this. It was really concerning me that at such a young age I would see such a sharp decline in a skill that I took for granted as a constant for so long. When I found this article, I was relieved to see that I was right to want to start writing again to build up these neuron pathways in the brain. It talks about growing and strengthening these neuronal pathways to be more centralized around writing. One way they propose to do this is by starting to write about what you are most passionate about. This is not just a general idea to spur you to be interested in writing, but seems to be a way to get these neurons firing because the pathways should be well established if it is something you think about frequently and gets you excited. To get new pathways to form, some neurons have to be firing to ignite the “global excitation” that can start to form new connections. For your brain to be its healthiest, you need to constantly be learning and reading and writing and talking about other issues that interest you to keep these connections strong, and build as many new connections as possible. Especially helpful is “deep reading” with detailed descriptions and complex ideas that you read slowly and fully process, not just skimming over. The last tip to improve how you process writing is to write slowly out on paper, especially in cursive, which forces you to think more. This makes sense because I feel sometimes typing on the computer you barely process what you are writing because you type so fast. An example of this is how writing things out make you remember them more. Whenever I am writing notes to try to study for a test, I find it much easier to recall the information if I have written it out by hand, rather than typing out notes. Given that these suggestions all seem to make sense, I hope to see a noticeable difference. Anything to keep your brain sharp is always a good idea.

Factors Affecting Depression

For the past few months, since my sister started medical school, I have been hearing a lot about what compounds from vitamins your brain and body need to function at its peak. This article mentions vitamin D deficiencies as one of the possible causes of depression, and shows some pretty scary statistics about the correlation between the two. In a recent study of individuals with depression and anxiety, recovering from depression, or otherwise healthy individuals, 33% had insufficient levels of vitamin D, and the lowest levels were found in a individuals with the most severe depression. These are pretty high numbers, so getting levels tested is recommended for anyone who is depressed, which I think is a good idea. The other factors mentioned in the article are tips you hear often, but that doesn’t make them any less important. These are things like a social support system, physical activity, and being optimistic and more reasonable with your expectations with yourself. If you explain things that happen in your life pessimistically it starts to form a cycle where it can make your more depressed, and then more likely to again explain things pessimistically. Another way to break out of this cycle that goes along with social support is having discussions that stimulate your mind that are more cognitively challenging, which if lacking can make you feel like you are stuck in a rut. Even though some of these tips are well known by most people, the tips such as getting vitamin D levels tested, are something to consider if you haven’t been able to make any progress in your depression just to understand yourself better.

After speaking with my aunt about her grandson learning to speak with bilingual parents, I was interested to look at the cognitive differences in learning related to this class. A lot of the articles debate whether or not having bilingual parents delay the onset of infants speaking, but there is conflicting evidence that also says that growing up bilingual affects your brain in so many positive ways. Studies show that “monolingual” babies recognize phonetic sounds earlier, in both the language they were used to hearing and a foreign language, but after 10 months have “neural commitment” and don’t recognize new languages. On the other hand, bilinguals babies did not recognize these same phonetic sounds until 10-12 months, but were then able to distinguish between the phonetic sounds in both languages, and don’t have the more narrow minded brain wiring. When shown silent videos of people speaking, brain waves show that monolingual babies recognized mouth movements earlier on and were engaged to recognize when a language that they didn’t know was being spoken, but at 8 months stopped responding and lost interest, whereas bilingual infants learned to recognize facial and mouth movements from video later on, but remained engaged for longer, trying to figure out what the unknown foreign language was. This suggests that bilingual babies have better logic solving skills, are better at multitasking, and have higher executive function. This seems like enough positive traits for me to believe it is worth the delay in onset in speaking to raise a child speaking two languages. Having your brain wired better to handle multitasking and logic problems is a huge advantage throughout life, and there is no reason for the child to need to be speaking at such a young age. The delay in onset of speaking is not a sign of lower cognitive abilities, so it doesn’t seem like something to worry about. This is just the baby taking their time to figure out both languages.

Hearing  Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language