Want to raise successful kids? Harvard, MIT study says doing one thing at age 4 could make them happier and wealthier in life

Thanks to modern science, there are a number of effective — yet obvious — strategies to smart parenting. But last year, a group of researchers at MIT, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania found that one of the best things parents can do for their children is to have frequent back-and-forth exchanges with them. 

The findings suggest that doing this at an early age (typically between ages 4 to 6) will help develop, foster and improve what is perhaps one of the most important skills that contribute to success in life: Communication.

What’s more, a number of studies have supported the idea that children with stronger communication skills are more likely to have healthier relationships, longer marriageshigher self-esteem and overall satisfaction in life.

.. We talk to our kids all the time — both directly and indirectly. “Sit here.” “Hurry, we’re going to be late.” “Great job!” “No, don’t do that.” “Alexa, read us a bedtime story.” The secret, however, is to have back-and-forth conversations.

For the study, researchers evaluated 36 children using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify the differences in how the brain responds to different conversational styles.

They found that the Broca’s area, a region of the brain that focuses on speech production and language processing, was much more active in children who engaged in more back-and-forth conversations. Children who had more activation in that region of the brain scored higher in tests of language, grammar and verbal reasoning skills.

“The really novel thing about our paper is that it provides the first evidence that family conversation at home is associated with brain development in children,” John Gabrieli, the senior author of the study, told MIT News. “It’s almost magical how parental conversation appears to influence the biological growth of the brain.”

.. Back in 1995, a landmark study found that children from higher-income families appeared to have much greater language and communication abilities, and it was thought to be correlated with the fact that those children were exposed to about 30 million more words during the first years of life, compared to children of lower-income families.

But findings from this recent study suggest that the “30 million word gap” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The conversational turn-taking seems like the thing that makes a difference, regardless of socioeconomic status,” Gabrielli said. “Such turn-taking occurs more often in families from a higher socioeconomic status, but children coming from families with lesser income or parental education showed the same benefits from conversational turn-taking.”

The point isn’t to have deep philosophical conversations with your children, but to instead carry conversations that require back-and-froth dialogue.

It’s not difficult to make that leap, and they’ll benefit in significant ways in the long run; interactive conversations help improve communication skills as a whole, and that’s a necessity for success in any future career. When it comes to your child’s success, maybe talk isn’t so cheap after all.

Brain Data Could Read Moods, Potentially Treat Depression

Study uses experimental software to decode variations in mood

Can mood be decoded from brain data?

That feat has long been elusive, in part because of the many brain regions that underpin emotions and the inherent complexity of mood. But a group of researchers reported Monday that experimental software trained on recordings from seven patients with brain implants can decode variations in mood.

A Neurosurgeon Reflects On The ‘Awe And Mystery’ Of The Brain

But given that the tumor looks like the brain, and if you’re operating near what we call eloquent brain – that is brain where, if it’s damaged, the patient suffers serious troubles such as paralysis or inability to speak – something like that – it’s very – it can be very helpful to have the patient awake, talking or moving the relevant limbs as you remove the tumor to make sure you’re not doing any harm.

And I was one of the first people to do this in this country many years ago. And it was considered rather eccentric at the time. But, in fact, it’s now the standard way of operating on these tumors and is practiced everywhere.

.. But it is one of the various themes of the book, which is this extraordinary fact which is very hard to come to terms with. It is a fact for all people who work with the brain that thinking and feeling is a physical process. It doesn’t feel like it. You know, my thoughts don’t feel like electric chemistry. But that is what they are. And I find it quite a consoling thought that our modern scientific view of the world which has explained so much – we can’t even begin to explain how consciousness, how sensation arises out of electric chemistry. But the fact of the matter – it does.

.. So does the work that you do as a neurosurgeon increase or diminish your sense of the mystery of consciousness?

MARSH: It increases it.

.. But you’re very nervous, as you describe it, during this procedure because you just recently performed surgery removing a tumor…

MARSH: Which had gone very badly, yes.

GROSS: Yes, from the cervical spine – cervical spinal cord of a woman. And she was left paralyzed on one side of her body.


GROSS: You fear that you removed too much of the tumor, and that’s what damaged her spinal cord. And you confess to several times when you felt responsible for a spinal or brain damage as a result of a surgery. And I’m interested in why you wanted to share that. You’ve even given a lecture called, like, the 10 worst mistakes I’ve ever made.

MARSH: Well, something like that. I’m a great believer that doctors and patients should, in a sense, be equals, I mean, especially as we give advice. I’ve always hated sort of paternalistic, condescending doctors. And I’m all for patients making demands and patient’s rights. But it’s a two-way process. And I think patients in the modern world where – certainly in England, you can’t open the newspapers without reading about the latest medical scandal and incompetent doctors. Now its incompetent nurses.

The public need to understand that medicine, actually, is often a very uncertain process.

.. I think, on the whole, if you – as a patient, if you go and see a doctor, and you could only choose one quality, I think most of us would go for honesty (laughter) because if you see an honest doctor, if he knows what should be done, he’ll tell you. If he thinks somebody else can do it better than he can, he can tell you. And I think honesty is, in a sense, a more important quality than steady hands or nerves of steel or heart of a lion – all the old cliched ideas of what surgeons should be like.

Read Later Share Tweet Our Brains Instantly Make Two Copies of Each Memory

For decades, we’ve thought that memories were formed in two distinct stages—short-term first, then long-term later.

We might be wrong.

New research suggests that our brains make two copies of each memory in the moment they are formed. One is filed away in the hippocampus, the center of short-term memories, while the other is stored in cortex, where our long-term memories reside.

.. After a brain surgery to treat his epilepsy damaged his hippocampus, he could no longer form new memories. But those memories he made before his surgery still existed, leading neuroscientists to believe that the hippocampus was key to forming new memories.

.. For the first few days, though, the neurons in the hippocampus are the only ones that fire during memory retrieval. Eventually, the memories in the cortex mature, and the neurons involved light up when the memory is recalled.