Science Teaching as a Dialogue – Bakhtin, Vygotsky and some Applications in the Classroom

The theory of dialogism, developed by the Russian linguist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975) with regard to literature and everyday communication, can be used to improve the teaching of science. Some of Bakhtin’s conceptual instruments are helpful in analysing the teaching process, and it is interesting to compare them with former ideas about teaching and learning, especially with the points of view of other constructivists. Together with Lev Vygotsky’s analysis of thought and language, Bakhtin’s dialogism shows how teachers  an support students effectively by addressing them as producers of a meaningful picture of the world. The differences between ‘dialogic’ teaching and the well-known ‘Socratic’ method are shown and analysed, as are Bakhtin’s discussions of a ‘carnivalistic’ approach to the students.


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Neuroscience of Self and Self-Regulation

As a social species, humans have a fundamental need to belong that encourages behaviors consistent with being a good group member. Being a good group member requires the capacity for self-regulation, which allows people to alter or inhibit behaviors that would place them at risk for group exclusion. Self-regulation requires four psychological components. First, people need to be aware of their behavior so as to gauge it against societal norms. Second, people need to understand how others are reacting to their behavior so as to predict how others will respond to them. This necessitates a third mechanism, which detects threat, especially in complex social situations. Finally, there needs to be a mechanism for resolving discrepancies between self-knowledge and social expectations or norms, thereby motivating behavior to resolve any conflict that exists. This article reviews recent social neuroscience research on the psychological components that support the human capacity for self-regulation.


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Cognitive Neuroscience of Thinking

The study of thinking in psychology is distributed over three largely independent branches: problem solving, reasoning, and judgment and decision-making. These domains are delineated by the type of tasks they study and the underlying formal apparatus they appeal to in their explanatory framework. The problem solving literature (Newell & Simon, 1972) studies tasks such as cryptarithmetic, theorem proving, Tower of Hanoi, and also more open-ended, real-world problems such as planning, design, and even scientific induction, among others. The basic theoretical framework is one of search through a problem space using the formal apparatus of production rules (and more generally, recursive function theory). The reasoning literature (Evans, Newstead, & Byrne, 1993)is largely focused on deductive inference tasks and draws upon the formal apparatus of deductive inference. The judgment and decision-making literature (Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1988)uses such tasks as the base rate fallacy, conjunction fallacy, etc. and draws upon the formal apparatus of probability theory. The goal of these psychological enterprises is to articulate the underlying cognitive mechanisms of thinking. Unfortunately, there is little or no communications across the subdomains.


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Prenatal Drug Exposure Affects Neonatal Brain Functional Connectivity

Prenatal drug exposure, particularly prenatal cocaine exposure (PCE), incurs great public and scientific interest because of its associated neurodevelopmental consequences. However, the neural underpinnings of PCE remain essentially uncharted, and existing studies in school-aged children and adolescents are confounded greatly by postnatal environmental factors. In this study, leveraging a large neonate sample (N152) and non-invasive resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, we compared human infants with PCE comorbid with other drugs (such as nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and antidepressant) with infants with similar non-cocaine poly drug exposure and drug-free controls. We aimed to characterize the neural correlates of PCE based on functional connectivity measurements of the amygdala and insula at the earliest stage of development. Our results revealed common drug exposure-related connectivity disruptions within the amygdala–frontal, insula–frontal, and insula–sensorimotor circuits. Moreover, a cocaine-specific effect was detected within a subregion of the amygdala–frontal network. This pathway is thought to play an important role in arousal regulation, which has been shown to be irregular in PCE infants and adolescents. These novel results provide the earliest human-based functional delineations of the neural-developmental consequences of prenatal drug exposure and thus open a new window for the advancement of effective strategies aimed at early risk identification and intervention.


Posted in Brains, Children, Drugs, Prenatal | Tagged , , ,

Prenatal Depression Alters Child’s Brain Connectivity and Affects Behavior

Postnatal depression can have a significant influence on a child’s brain development and behavior. Greater symptoms of PND were associated with weaker white matter connections between areas of the brain involved in emotional processing. The weakened white matter connectivity was linked to increased aggression and hyperactivity in male children. The change could lead to dysregulated emotional states in children and explain why children whose mothers experienced PND are more prone to developing depression later in life.


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Depression in Pregnancy may ‘Age’ Children’s Brains

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The Unity of Science

The topic of unity in the sciences can be explored through the following questions: Is there one privileged, most basic or fundamental concept or kind of thing, and if not, how are the different concepts or kinds of things in the universe related? Can the various natural sciences (e.g.,physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology) be unified into a single overarching theory, and can theories within a single science (e.g., general relativity and quantum theory in physics, or models of evolution and development in biology) be unified? Are theories or models the relevant connected units? What other connected or connecting units are there? Does the unification of these parts of science involve only matters of fact or are matters of value involved as well? What about matters of method, material, institutional, ethical and other aspects of intellectual cooperation? Moreover, what kinds of unity, not just units, in the sciences are there? And is the relation of unification one of reduction, translation, explanation, logical inference, collaboration or something else? What roles can unification play in scientific practices, their development, application and evaluation?


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Body Weight Has Alarming Impact on Brain Function

Summary: Obesity and higher body mass are linked to decreased cerebral blood flow. Lower cerebral blood flow is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a range of psychiatric disorders.

As a person’s weight goes up, all regions of the brain go down in activity and blood flow, according to a new brain imaging study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.


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COVID‑19 Epidemic Peer Support and Crisis Intervention Via Social Media

This article describes a peer support project developed and carried out by a group of experienced mental health professionals, organized to ofer peer psychological support from overseas to healthcare professionals on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. This pandemic extremely challenged the existing health care systems and caused severe mental distress to frontline healthcare workers. The authors describe the infrastructure of the team and a novel model of peer support and crisis intervention that utilized a popular social media application on smartphone. Such a model for intervention that can be used elsewhere in the face of current global pandemic, or future disaster response.


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Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in Children during the COVID-19 Epidemic

Although the knowledge base regarding children’s responses to trauma and adverse events in general has been expanding, descriptions of their responses during epidemics remain scarce. Yet their vulnerability makes this an important group to study. Several studies have documented the damaging effects of psychological stress due to negative events in children. Anxiety, depression, lethargy, impaired social interaction, and reduced appetite are commonly reported manifestations. Physiological effects include a weakened or compromised immune system. In the course of adverse events, children are often forced to stay home for long periods due to enforced isolation and school closure, resulting in limited connection with classmates and reduced physical activity.


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The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 and Physical Distancing

The Need for Prevention and Early Intervention.  Since the first case of novel coronavirus disease 2019 TheworldwideCOVID-19 pandemic, and efforts to contain it, represent a unique threat, andwe must recognize the pandemic that will quickly follow it—that of mental and behavioral illness—and implement the steps needed to mitigate it.

While these steps may be critical to mitigate the spread of this disease, they will undoubtedly have consequences for mental health and well-being in both the short and long term. These consequences are of sufficient importance that immediate efforts focused on prevention and direct intervention are needed to address the impact of the outbreak on individual and population level mental health.


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The impact of COVID-19 on mental health

COVID-19 and mental health: A review of the existing literature

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