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English Detective #74 Reading about kids’ developing brains 12-6-16
December 06, 2016

Practice English reading with several articles on brain development in children and teens (one also offering listening practice), and then review common vocabulary on the subject.

NPR offers a short podcast (with a transcript so you can read along while listening, or afterwards) on the ways screen viewing affects young children’s brains. It’s a balanced report giving both sides on a subject that’s controversial among development experts.

PBS has an excellent discussion on how the teenage brain matures. If you can only read one article from this newsletter, I would recommend this one.

Here’s a funny comparison of a teen brain to an entertainment center that isn’t fully connected yet, and is missing the remote control.

If you prefer a full scientific description of teen brain development, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers a good one, long but not more difficult. If you have the time to read it, it’s excellent English practice.

Much of the vocabulary for these articles, especially names for different areas of the brain, is explained within them. I will just point out a few key general terms that would be good to learn if you don’t know them.

Function is the purpose of a part or organ: what it is used for. Structure is its form—the way it’s put together. A functional MRI is magnetic imaging that shows how the brain (or whatever part is being examined) works, rather than just what it looks like.

Immature is an adjective that means not fully developed; mature means completely developed or adult. The nouns are immaturity or maturity, as well as maturation (the process of reaching maturity.) To mature is also a verb-- to develop or reach full growth.

Pruning usually refers to cutting off branches of a fruit tree or vine to encourage new growth. Here it means removing excess neurons for better brain functioning.

Stimulation is causing a response or excitement, especially by activating nerves. Seeing stimulates the visual nerves, hearing things stimulates the auditory nerves.

I’m guessing you will have enough stimulation over the holidays without any more newsletters, so I will skip the mid-December issue and send the next one on (or close to) Tuesday January 3, 2017. Happy holidays—and keep practicing English whenever you can!

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