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English Detective #9, What scientists Have Learned about Brain Development: March 26,2013
March 25, 2013

Introducing this issue:

I found a number of very interesting readings about brain development, including more on children’s brains and the advantages of being bilingual. However, some of them were rather difficult, so I finally chose three that I think are especially interesting and not too hard.

(Two have the advantage of both text and audio, so you can listen while you read, or go back over any difficult parts. The TED talk is also available in translation-- but be sure to read the English version too! Ms. Blakemore explains her research into adolescent (teen) brains simply, and with clear illustrations.

I skipped the readings on the advantages of bilingualism because they are more difficult. Here’s a brief summary: Research shows bilingual people have two (or more!) languages active in their brains even when they are only using one. This turns out to be like exercise: it develops their “executive function”-- the ability to do two things at once. They do better on many tests of executive control. This also appears to reduce or at least delay the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

As I wrote in the last issue, I will no longer suggest days for each reading and activity. I have given the links for them in the order I think might be the easiest, but feel free to read them and do the vocabulary practice whenever it’s best for you.

Your First Clue: Vocabulary we’ll Emphasize in this Issue

adults, assess, automatically, commitment, equation, error, evolution, formula, function, ignored, implications, intelligence, interpretation, intrinsic, monitoring, ongoing, participation, predict, quote, random, region, regulation, significant, temporary, undergoes, underlying, whereby

If you already know most of the words, work on the ones you aren’t so sure of, or enjoy the readings and take a break from intensive study this week. There will be a whole different group in the next newsletter.

This article (with audio) from the Voice of America gives a summary of several books on brain research.Click here to read and listen.

You can learn and practice many of the words in this week’s vocabulary list on the Science vocabulary page here. The follw-up page with fill-ins is here.

If you prefer to work offline from a pdf, you can get both pages and their answers in pdf form.Right-click here to download them.

A few notes about the article ‘Finding Connections:’ It says “the axons are sheathed in myelin.” That means the axons (those long branch-like arms of neurons that make the connections) are covered with myelin, a protective protein. The article also compares brain connections to electrical wiring.

A few quick review words: colleagues are co-workers (people working on the same project); components are the parts of something, and the verb seek (with past tense ‘sought’) means to look for something. You can find that article here.

You can review all this week’s vocabulary with a word search puzzle. (Find the words either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. None are upside down.) Right-click to download it here. The answer sheet is here.

Click here for the TED talk.

The short grammar quiz about the brain is here.

Coming in the next issue: Readings and a TED talk on what scientists have learned about willpower (self-control, or being willing to wait to get what you want.) These are related to one of the books discussed in the first reading in this issue, but I felt there is so much of interest that it needed an issue of its own. So the issue AFTER next will start the readings on business management. Enjoy your spring! (or Australian fall...)

In case you missed these: Earlier issues of English Detective have articles on a number of topics, plus practice with over 200 words from the Academic Word List. You can check them out with the link to the back issues page below (or find what words were practiced each issue here.

P.S. If you’re not already getting English Detective, you can subscribe by completing the form here. (It's free!)

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