In this essay, I’m going to try to convince parents that it is possible, and may be beneficial, to teach their children to read even while they are babies or toddlers. I also have remarks for researchers throughout. First, I will explain how I taught my own little one, beginning at age 22 months, and introduce some of our methods. Then I will answer various general objections to the notion and practice of teaching tiny tots to read.

Hawkins and Ahmad now say they know what’s going on. Their new idea is that distal and proximal synapses play entirely different roles in the process of learning. Proximal synapses play the conventional role of triggering the cell to fire when certain patterns of connections crop up.


But distal synapses do something else. They also recognize when certain patterns are present, but do not trigger firing. Instead, they influence the electric state of the cell in a way that makes firing more likely if another specific pattern occurs. So distal synapses prepare the cell for the arrival of other patterns. Or, as Hawkins and Ahmad put it, these synapses help the cell predict what the next pattern sensed by the proximal synapses will be.

Acting in a way that isn't considered stupid is a goal shared by most reasonable people, but many of them likely overlook one key attribute that might allow them to better achieve it: modesty.

"If you don't want to do something stupid, you probably don't want to have higher expectations of your abilities than you should," Balazs said. "The worst thing someone can do is act confidently, and seriously, and still not act rationally. That's as stupid as it gets."

Near death isn’t required for a near-death experience. They can be triggered by severe illness and even fainting (from lack of oxygen to the brain). Though my coma-dream shared many similarities with typical NDEs, my experience was different because I’m a skeptic. The reason I didn’t see dead relatives is I don’t believe in life after death. Likewise, I didn’t see Jesus’s rainbow-hued horse because I’m Jewish and not a four-year-old imagining Jesus with a gay Little Pony. I did, however, dream of ice cream. Indeed, while my life didn’t flash before my eyes, childhood elements figured prominently in the revolving segments of the coma-dream. On my Brain TV, some shows were repeats, while others had advancing plots like soap operas. I had a lot of time to kill.

The past 15 years have witnessed an overwhelming amount of research on the bilingual mind, with the majority of the evidence pointing to the tangible advantages of using more than one language. Going back and forth between languages appears to be a kind of brain training, pushing your brain to be flexible.

How well do you see color? FACT: 1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men have some form of color vision deficiency. Take the online color challenge, based on the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test.

What is it about walking, in particular, that makes it so amenable to thinking and writing? The answer begins with changes to our chemistry. When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

If you're feeling sleepy and want to wake yourself up — and have 20 minutes or so to spare before you need to be fully alert — there's something you should try. It's more effective than drinking a cup of coffee or taking a quick nap.

It's drinking a cup of coffee and then taking a quick nap. This is called a coffee nap.

It might sound crazy: conventional wisdom is that caffeine interferes with sleep. But if you caffeinate immediately before napping and sleep for 20 minutes or less, you can exploit a quirk in the way both sleep and caffeine affect your brain to maximize alertness. Here's the science behind the idea.

Perfection is unattainable: Learning English as a lingua franca (ELF) involves approaching the language as a tongue shared by non-native speakers around the world rather than as a lingo that must be mastered to native-speaker level. Letting go of the idea of speaking 'perfect English' could do wonders for Japanese students' confidence.

They’re not just used by behavioural scientists: a Skinner box can be a useful device for training pets, especially pets with a reasonable amount of smarts, like parrots or rats. It can automate the process you may have already used with your pet, where “correct” behaviour is rewarded – walk to heel, get a doggy snack.


Skinner boxes are also pretty expensive. So Katherine Scott, computer vision and robotics expert, electronics ninja and rat owner/trainer, has built her own, which she intends to release as an open source device when she’s finished refining it.

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