More on Iodine and Its Importance

In March I reviewed, Dr. David Brownstein’s book, Iodine Why You Need It Why You Can’t Live Without It.  -See under March or Health Issues.

Here is a lengthy presentation of the research emphasizing the importance of iodine and how our food supply and medical establishment have diverted us away from sound health. Dr. Cousens reinforces Brownstein’s message. I do not endorse Cousen’s point #23. However, I don’t believe that it weakens his overall message.

Information and offer from Dr. Brownstein –…1 of

The Brain That Changes Itself – Chapter 4 – Acquiring Tastes and Loves

Doidge explores neuroplasticity related to love and sex. “The brain structure that regulates instinctive behavior, including sex, called the hypothalamus, is plastic as is the amygdala, the structure that processes emotion and anxiety. While some parts of the brain, such as the cortex, may have more plastic potential because there are more neurons and connections to be altered, even non-cortical areas display plasticity. It is the property of all brain tissue. Plasticity exists in the hippocampus (the area that turns our memories from short-term to long-term ones) as well as in areas that control our breathing, process primitive sensation, and process pain.” P. 97

Merzenich says, “You cannot have plasticity in isolation…it’s an absolute impossibility.” P. 97

Sexual attractions differ within different cultures. Sexual arousal occurs through all of the senses.

Doidge spends a good deal of time on pornography, other sexual perversions and addictions, which are not within the scope of what we address in our work. However, dopamine, the “reward transmitter,” has a broader affect on individuals. Exhausted winners of a race get a final boost to cross the finish line, while losers may not make it over the finish line because they did not get the extra boost that dopamine supplies. Every time a person experiences pleasure by receiving dopamine, that memory is reinforced in the brain.
P. 106

“Pleasure centers” were discovered in the limbic system (emotional systems) by Dr. Robert Health in 1950. “When the pleasure centers are turned on, everything we experience give us pleasure.” P. 113 When individuals with bipolar disease (formerly manic-depressive) approach their manic-highs, “their pleasure centers begin to fire. And falling in love also lowers the threshold at which the pleasure centers will fire.” P. 113

As the addict or the lover anticipates and or experiences pleasure, these feelings become globalized – that is the person is happy about everything. P. 114 The loss of one of these experiences can be as extreme, only negative. “Unlearning and weakening connections between neurons is just as plastic a process, and just as important, as learning and strengthening them.” P 117

Oxytocin is called the commitment neuromodulator – it reinforces bonding. It also induces trust. This helps explain why children raised in orphanages have a difficult time bonding. It may take years to raise the level of oxytocin even when in loving adoptive families. “Whereas dopamine induces excitement, puts us into high gear and triggers sexual arousal, oxytocin induces a calm, warm mood that increases tender feelings and attachment and may lead us to lower our guard.”  Oxytocin is likely to also make us commit to our partners and children. P. 119

Some individuals experience pain and pleasure together as children and become masochistic in adulthood because these two sensations become entwined – mind maps have merged.

These studies have revealed some of the physiological basis for some emotional behavior. It is easier to prevent these behaviors in children we raise from birth than to help those who already have these traumatic experiences in their past. This is a factor in our clients who are adopted.

18 Tips for Maximizing Homeschool Conventions

Spring and summer generally offer more opportunities to go to a home educator’s conference or convention. You can spend a good bit of time and money at these events. When you prepare ahead of time you can minimize wasted time and money. Here are my top 18 tips for maximizing these opportunities:

1. As early as January, research the events that are within reach – time, money and geography wise.
2. Once you have your list of possible events, determine if you want to plan on going to one or more of these events.
3. Make a list of your goals for going – Sample goals:
a. To hear a specific speaker.
b. To hear someone speak on a specific topic.
c. To review a specific curriculum.
d. To see what curriculum is available for a specific subject.
e. To receive some encouragement.
f. To learn how to use a specific curriculum or method of teaching.
g. To involve your children during the conference.
h. To have a date with your spouse so you can plan together.
i. To find a class or other resource in your area for your children during the year.
4. Research those web sites of those organizations hosting your list of possible events.
5. Make a chart of your goals along the side and the events along the top, you can mark an X in each of the corresponding boxes when you find a goal that would be potentially met.
6. If you have time, you can wait a week or so before you go back and look at the information with fresh eyes.
7. Make a choice and check to see if pre-registration or lodging or child care or other preparation is required ahead of time.
8. Before the date, look on the web site to see all that is being offered at your conference and what exhibitors who will be present.
9. Make a budget with items that you know you need to purchase and how much you have to purchase. Going to web sites can give you an idea if an item is in your price range. There may be some conference specials that will help.
10. Make a plan of which workshops or general sessions you will attend and when you will visit the vendor’s hall.
11. Make a schedule that will be easy to read. If the brochure is available online, you may want to download, print and highlight.
12. Make a list of vendors whose booths you want to visit.
13. If you are going to be there two days, you could go through the whole hall fairly rapidly the first day to see what is interesting.
14. On the first day, you can collect materials that you can study that evening.
15. On the second day, you can plan on visiting some select booths so that you can ask questions.
16. If others man the booth while the speaker is speaking, you may want to plan a time other than right after you listen to the speaker or while he is speaking.
17. Allow a little time in your schedule to relax and enjoy doing what you enjoy doing at a conference.
18. If these tips micromanage your life too much, take the ones that you need to help you maximize your time at the convention.

Homeschool conventions can provide the support you need to enjoy the journey of learning with your family.

The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge, M.D. – Chapter 3 –Part 3 – Redesigning the Brain

Finally we complete the review of this chapter:

According the “localizationists” and those who believed there is a “critical period” during which all changes are made, education logically gave the most attention to those that appeared to have the intelligence to learn. Now that we know that the brain is plastic throughout life, that approach is grossly unfair to those that begin with less apparent intelligence.

Paula Tallal from Rutgers had begun to analyze why children had trouble learning. At that point, 5-10 percent of preschool children were thought to have a language disability. Some of these were called dyslexic. Since babies begin talking by practicing consonant-vowel combinations such as da,da, ba, ba, English speakers begin by saying the following words: ‘mama, dada, and pee-pee.’ Tallal believed that children were having difficulty with these ‘fast parts of speech’ because of an auditory processing problem. “Merzenich believed that these children’s auditory cortex neurons were firing too slowly, so they couldn’t distinguish between two very similar sounds or be certain, if two sounds occurred close together, which was first and which was second.” Normally neurons fire after about a 30-millisecond rest. “Eighty percent of language-impaired children took at least three times that long, so that they lost large amounts of language information. When their neuron-firing patterns were examined, the signals weren’t clear.” P. 69 This difficulty in auditory processing resulted in weaknesses in vocabulary, comprehension, speech, reading and writing. P. 69

In 1996, Jenkins, Tallal and one of her colleagues, Steve Miller, a psychologists, joined with Merzenich to for a company, Scientific Learning, that was wholly devoted to using neuroplastic research to help people rewire their brains.” P. 70 They developed Fast ForWord which is a training program for language-impaired and learning-disabled children. There are seven computer activities, which exercise the brain; here are brief descriptions of five of them:
1) Discrimination of short sounds – when a short sound changes the child releases a cow and it flies across the screen. Rapid responses earn points.
2) Discrimination of common consonant – vowel combinations – increasingly more quickly.
3) Discrimination of faster frequent glides (like ‘whooooop’)
4) Remember and match sounds.
5  Finding objects that are out of place – visually.
With the help of the computer, the faster parts of speech are slowed down and then as they continue the sounds get faster. Animation is used to reward achievement. Each time a child is rewarded, his brain secretes neurotransmitters such a dopamine and acetylcholine. These help consolidate the new mind map. P. 70-71
With milder difficulties, children work with Fast ForWord for 1 hour 40 minutes a day, five days a week for several weeks. With more severe difficulties, children work for eight to twelve weeks. P. 71

Research Studies

January, 1996 – first study reported in journal Science. One group of language impaired children used a similar computer program that did not train temporal processing. The Fast ForWord group demonstrated significant progress is standard speech, language auditory processing compared to the control group. Further, they maintained these skills when retested six weeks later. P. 71

A more extensive study with 500 children at thirty-five sites (hospitals, homes and clinics) pre and post tested the children with a standardized language test. On average, the students improved 1.8 grade level in six weeks.

A Sanford group did brain scans before and after Fast ForWord on twenty dyslexic children. After brain scans showed increased activity in the left-parietal cortex. P. 72
Two studies of children with autism have also confirmed much of what Merzenich had been hearing regarding the improvement in testimonials. In one study, children with autism had moved from “severe language impairment to the normal range.” Remarkably, in another study of one hundred individuals other autistic symptoms improved also. Areas of improvement included: attention spans, sense of humor, more connected with people, better eye contact, began greeting, addressing by name and conversing and said goodbye.


Beside the research Doidge gives us a testimonial of a 7-year-old boy from West Virginia.
Before Fast ForWord: “auditory-processing disorder and a hearing problem;” could not discriminate sounds (confused copy for coffee), insecurity, chewing on clothes in Kindergarten, trouble with reading, missed social cues because did not hear changes in pitch, easily distracted auditorily, difficulty following directions, stressed out using the computer.
After 100 minutes a day for eight weeks of Fast ForWord, his grades improved, he was confident. Even after a year later he has maintained these newly developed skills.

Fast ForWord appears to be causing other improvements, perhaps due to the general improvements in mental processing: handwriting, better sustained attention and focus, improving the brain’s general ability to keep time; visual processing problems including skipping lines,

An eight-year-old girl with moderate autism spoke little, using gestures and tugging at her parents to get what she wanted. When her family moved to a school where she could use Fast ForWord, within 8 weeks here speech exploded.

Posit Science, a new company of Merzenich with the goal of helping seniors maintain mental capacity into later years. Posit Science has Fast ForWord type activities to help individuals maintain and expand their mental alertness. Areas that these exercised stimulate include auditory and visual processing, working the frontal cortex that supports executive function. Finally, these activities also work on fine motor and gross motor control.

My Thoughts

While I have spent some time looking into this program and others like it, I still have questions regarding some of the other important areas of development that seem to be missing. I see how these web-based brain-training programs can work for fine motor and processing and memory – both visual and auditory, but I fail to see the connection to gross motor and sensory issues. Further, using technology cautiously is important as we see the problems with too much screen time.

Homeschooling: 13 Ways to Maintain Skills During the Summer

Some homeschooling families continue their regular schedule during the summer; taking breaks from time to time. Many, however, follow the school schedule by taking three months off during the summer. While it is helpful to take breaks, a three-month long break can be devastating to many students. Taking long breaks can sabotage the concept of “short-frequent sessions are better.” If your family can not or will not change to a year around schedule, there are ways to maintain skills. Subjects that are especially vulnerable to long breaks include math, reading for beginners and foreign languages. You may want to add other areas to your personal list. Just as there are a variety of approaches homeschoolers take in their educational program, there are an equal number of types of solutions for this problem. Here is a list to get you started, add your own flare.

1. Use Calculadders (Mad Minutes or other fact quiz or Daily Grams for other areas) 3-4 times a week.

2. Encourage reading a good book for fun. Some children will need a minimum time or page requirement. Encourage your child to try some different kinds of literature.

3. Play board games that will encourage thinking, math and verbal skills (Monopoly,

Pay Day, Boggle, Scrabble, DK’s Number Quest, Clue, Where in the World (USA, etc.) is Carmen Sandiego? Hail to the Chief, America -The Game etc.

4. Go on field trips as a family. Your local area provides numerous possibilities.

5. Have child help / do grocery shopping for the family – from making the list, to estimating the cost, to paying for the bill. Introduce the concept of “living on a budget” with real life opportunities to practice.

6. Attend foreign language classes or camps. Look for conversational opportunities in the foreign language. Or attend classes or camps in an interest area and read about it – science, gymnastics, other sports. etc.

7. Do nature walks, developing observation skills. Make drawings with labels.

8. Host a spelling, geography or other bee in your neighborhood.

9. Require one page of review for each subject needed 3 to 5 days a week.

10. Take photographs on vacation or special outings. Have child write captions and organize a photo album or scrapbook. Have him prepare a power point presentation or do a blog.

11. Have a summer business, keeping the books, advertising etc.

12. Introduce new educational software for the summer.

13. Find a volunteer service opportunity for your family.