A very good book that could have been a classic that forever ended the simplistic nature-nurture discussion and brought brain research into the mainstream discussion. But while the book is really good it suffers from a little too much speculation, lack of footnotes, general opinions and simplicity, especially in the end, so it did not make it all the way (my guess it was a compromise from Lise to make the publishers happy and if that was the price to get the book out it was a small price to pay). Still, and I want to emphasize this, it is one of the best booked in the area I have read and strongly recommend people to read it. I hope Lise will get the time/resources to write a follow-up to this where she can dig deeper into the nature-nurture interaction and what brain-mind development in the 21st century could bring and what we need to think about.
Initially it was the subtitle that first caught my attention “How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life”. Not just mind, not just brain, but brain and mind.
In the first chapters Lise gives one of the best overviews of the nature-nurture situation from the brains perspective I have read and show how meaningless any polarization is. The fact that nature and nurture interact is extremely well described with the physical development of the brain in relation to very early nature-nurture interaction.
Then the different senses are presented and as a brain researcher she obviously do not stop with the five classical senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) but also the others that are important for the brain to understand the world, e.g. balance, acceleration, temperature and the kinesthetic sense.
I would have liked to see a discussion about the inner sense also: such as the suffocation sense though the peripheral chemoreceptors that react when the CO2 levels are too high in the brain. I’m interested in this, as I have had an idea that we should be able to connect this sense to the outside world in some way.
The discussion about intelligence and what affects it during the development of the brain is interesting, but I would have liked to see a more comprehensive discussion about different aspects and how they relate to different aspects of the brain development. But even more I lack a discussion about emotional/ethical development (especially in relation to the strong focus in society in simple intelligence as measured by IQ).
In the end the book drifts into the “how to make your child a genius” and general discussions about classical music and other tabloid discussions without really helping very much.
One area that I really would like to explore further is the possibility to link one or more of our inner senses to virtual “bodies/sensors” outside. It would be very interesting to know what would happen if future generations can learn to connect and control things in the outside with the brain from an early age with an interface that the child will see as a part of its own body. To use the connected sensors to become part of a global body
I would like to try it myself, and a small group that is interested, to take the concept of “global citizens” to a new level. Then based on the experience discuss how society could look like if we expanded our senses and also what the difference would be if the brain was adopted to such sensors from the beginning.
If animals (including humans) suffer we would feel pain, and if they thrive we would get positive feedback (maybe the kind of sensation one get from a Bach sonata?). The intensity and duration for the feelings in order for the body/mind to feel encouraged to address these challenges will be interesting to explore. And also how such feedback would impact the ethical development and priorities. The time aspect is particularly challenging as much of the destruction of the planet is happening slowly, and how we can connect to that and feel improvement and lack of progress would be important to address.