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Elastic Brain

It is known now that our brains put brakes on the rapid learning phase of childhood when we reach adulthood. There is a need for this stability during adult life for essential functions like survival, and procreation. Because the brain shapes and reshapes itself several times while we are small children, as children, we have an amazing ability to learn new things and pick them up quickly. When something goes haywire during this critical change phase or the timing of events in the brain gets disturbed, children get learning disorders such as autism or schizophrenia. Learning continues into adulthood albeit at a much slower rate; around this time, new neuron connections still happen. It has been found that this childhood plasticity of brain is supressed as we become mature adults. However, if these suppressive factors are removed, the brain can open up during adult phase and become plastic again.


Plastic Bodies

While learning development biology in college, I remember my teacher offering us snippets of wisdom as this one: “We are bombarded with all kinds of environmental influences such as fertilizers, pesticides, cosmetics (even shampoos, soaps, and deodorants), and food, and we do not have enough research to know the effects of such environmental agents on our bodies”. So, it is not only our DNA that determines what we become and what our progeny would be like, but we and the future generation are also determined and affected by environmental agents in the environment, in our bodies and in our wombs. With such plastic bodies, the blame of being a disadvantaged individual shouldn’t be on only his genes or himself. For example, when a person is obese, generally he/she or his/her DNA is solely held responsible for that condition disregarding an array of environmental, social, and cultural factors that could have resulted in the explosion of this health ailment in the world.

[Contributed by a reader]