Science 19 August 2011:
Vol. 333 no. 6045 pp. 982-983
DOI: 10.1126/science.1206014

Education Forum

Protecting Brains, Not Simply Stimulating Minds

Jack P. Shonkoff

First paragraph (underlining added):
Originally Posted By: Jack P. Shonkoff in Science

Advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, epigenetics, and the behavioral and social sciences indicate that the foundations of educational achievement, lifelong health, economic productivity, and responsible citizenship are formed early in life. Based on this knowledge, early childhood policy and practice are grounded in a growing understanding of the extent to which early experiences are incorporated into the developing brain, for better or for worse (1). An environment of stable, stimulating, and protective relationships builds a strong foundation for a lifetime of effective learning. In contrast, when young children are burdened by significant adversity, stress response systems are overactivated, maturing brain circuits can be impaired, metabolic regulatory systems and developing organs can be disrupted, and the probabilities increase for long-term problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health

Curricular enhancements in early childhood education that are guided by the science of learning must be augmented by protective interventions informed by the biology of adversity. The same neuroplasticity that leaves emotional regulation, behavioral adaptation, and executive functioning skills vulnerable to early disruption by stressful environments also enables their successful development through focused interventions during sensitive periods in their maturation. The early childhood field should therefore combine cognitive-linguistic enrichment with greater attention to preventing, reducing, or mitigating the consequences of significant adversity on the developing brain. Guided by this enhanced theory of change, scientists, practitioners, and policy-makers must work together to design, implement, and evaluate innovative strategies to produce substantially greater impacts than those achieved by existing programs.

Edited by pufferfish (08/29/11 05:31 PM)