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No. 45 (Sept./Oct. 2000)

Pre-Natal Curriculum And Why
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

From the seventh month in the womb until you were born, over half the brain cells you had, died.

This somewhat unsettling matter has been discussed from time to time in various corners of the medical literature these past two years. Apparently, 30,000 to 60,000 years ago, gestation used to be shorter. The peak of brain cell production was timed over thousands of generations to coincide with the time of birth. Various advantages of keeping the bread in the oven a little longer became too great — we now normally take the full nine months — but: we've not yet adjusted the period of peak neurogenesis accordingly.

Researchers say this great die-off is just a bit of a sorting-out, nature's way of organizing things. Frankly, I'd like some of my brain cells back. Wouldn't you like to have some of your own brain cells back?

Over half of our brain, dead and gone before we ever got born.

Of what?

Of non-use. Some might say, of boredom.

There is much said these days about pre-natal stimulus. That may be a start on saving some of those many billions of brain cells from dying off, but it's not enough of an answer. We've known for a century, thanks to various researchers including the father of neuro-anatomy, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, that the brain and its circuits and its individual cells develop and grow not mostly from genetics, though that helps; not mostly from nutrition, though that helps; not mostly from stimulus, though that helps.

The brain and its components grow mainly from feedback on one's own actions or activities.

You develop mostly from what you take back in from some of what you've been putting out, as do we all, for better or worse —

o Not from what's been done to you but from what you've done, what you've done with what's been done to you, and what you are doing now.

o Not from what you've been taught, but from what you've learned, which is a very different matter.

How can the fetus get feedback on his own actions? How can he get enough more feedback on his own actions to save some of those tens of billions of brain cells from dying?

Expectant parents have, all along, naturally and normally been giving the baby some feedback, especially when he kicks. As the fetus moves around or kicks, parents make noises, they change activities, they tap back. This is part of that natural feedback. The trick is to have some sort of system of consistency to that feedback.


Consistent responses are key
Apparently a lot, perhaps most, of the baby's God-given brain can be saved and developed, with a consistent system for responding to what the fetus is doing. Pre-natal stimulus, yes, but pre-natal stimulus in the form of a regular pattern of feedback....responses to the actions of the fetus which are consistent enough that he experiences control over some of his environment.

If the fetus comes to experience being in control of some of his environment, he will develop some of his brain circuitry accordingly. Examples how:

o When the fetus in the womb kicks to Mama's left, you tap back the same number of times. Consistently.

o When he kicks to Mama's right, you make three times as many taps back. Consistently.

o When he kicks high, you put headphones on the tum and talk or sing to him via mike, each time he does that.

o When he kicks low, you shine a strong light on the tum (enough shines through that he can see it — the sun or even an ordinary 60-watt lamp), or you play music to him. Consistently.

o And when Mama is lying down trying to sleep, consistently don't respond!

Provide that kind of responses, whatever they are, consistently to his actions. Develop your own system, your own code, but make it one you can keep up for several months, consistently.

The key thing is to engage the fetus in a feedback circuit of responses which gives him the experience, through those consistencies of feedback, of controlling some of what's happening to him. This is MAJOR.


After birth:
There is such a powerful difference between mere stimulus and feedback on the baby's own actions. Example:  a long time ago I was so very pleased in early versions of my 1974 book, How To Increase Your Intelligence, to have come up with the idea of having flashing multi-colored Christmas tree lights going for a few minutes at a time near the newborn's crib. And it was and is true that children who've had this early stimulus of their main visual functions at that level do appear to grow up with much keener vision and apparent visual intelligence.

But it is now clear to me that it would be far more powerful to have pressure-pad controls in the crib bedding, controlling different colored lights shining onto the crib and baby. The baby's own movements would turn these various colored lights on and off. Does anyone reading this care to make up such a system for the next babies to come along?


Another form of stimulus, before birth:
Here is another type of stimulus that looks promising, even though it is mostly one-way stimulus and not feedback. Most musicians, especially gifted ones, apparently had mothers who played a musical instrument and who did so extensively during pregnancy. Maybe the resultant child's musical genius was in the genes — or maybe not. If the mother physically plays a violin or piano or wind instrument, the fetus will experience not only the sound but some sort of sense of the kinaesthetics of that process. Early kinaesthetic and total-environment experience, I believe, becomes part of their later musical genius.


In general —
Overall, we humans have been given — by God or by natural circumstance — a most truly extraordinary endowment, one we've been mostly wasting. Already, the brains of modern man are 10%-15% smaller in size than those of Cro-Magnon, and we no longer seem physically capable of the Cro-Magnon practice of running down rabbit and deer on foot. If we keep wasting our talents, sooner or later they will be withdrawn altogether. You are looking at an opportunity to let the next child that comes along be more completely what he or she can be. Some of us would even consider that opportunity to be sacred. What have we been given; what are we doing with it? What are we doing or not doing to our children?

Aside from the sheer fun of responding to the fetus and then having that fetus respond to your responses in turn and your electrifying knowledge of what that can mean.....


Comments to:
Win Wenger

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