Scientists Weigh in on Special Needs Learning

“Allowing children to fail, to think they’re ‘dumb,’ is no longer acceptable,” said Dana Alliance member Sally Shaywitz at a recent Capitol Hill briefing on what neuroscience can tell us about educating special needs children.

Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, joined fellow panelists Dana Alliance member Martha Denckla and Damien Fair for a discussion that addressed the importance and the difficulty of early detection of learning disorders such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As reported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):

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Mental Illness Across the Ages

Despite some recent improvements, the chance that children or adults in America will get care for their mental illnesses is still critically low.


Nelson Freimer

While around 42 million adults in the US have a mental illness each year, “less than 40 percent of all adults who have mental illness got any treatment at all last year,” said psychiatrist Nelson Freimer during a panel discussion on mental illness across the lifespan at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. Freimer, director of the UCLA Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics, also warns of “an epidemic of depression” among people just entering adulthood now, more than in previous generations.

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Kids and Sport-Related Concussions

People who play football have a higher number of concussions than those who play any other sport. Which comes second?

  1. Girl’s soccer
  2. Boy’s wrestling
  3. Boy’s ice hockey.

Well, you’ll have to watch the new BrainWorks video about kids and sports-related concussions to hear the answer.  I know, not fair, but trust me, it’s a great video!

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From Birth to Two: the Neuroscience of Infant Development

Photo courtesy of AAAS

Photo courtesy of AAAS

“There are many misconceptions about child development,” said Pat Levitt, Provost Professor at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California at the latest Neuroscience and Society lecture convened by the Dana Foundation and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Some of the most prevalent myths include that humans are born with a blank slate; children are sponges; 80% of development takes place by 3 years old; and that a child’s outcome is predominantly self-determined. Moreover, many consider the mixture of fate, free will, parenting, genes, and environment a mysterious “black box” that ultimately decides a child’s success.

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Children’s Mental Health Awareness: OCD

Sunday, May 3rd to Saturday, May 9th is “Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week,” a national effort to raise awareness about the mental health needs of America’s youth. With obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affecting an estimated 2.2 million American adults, the condition first surfaces during childhood or early adolescence. To learn more about OCD, we spoke with expert Judy Rapoport, M.D., who is chief of the child psychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health and a Dana Alliance member.

It’s not uncommon to hear someone casually say they “have OCD” because they like to keep things organized in a certain way or follow some sort of ritual every day. What is the real distinction between someone who is particular and someone who is diagnosed with OCD?

rapoport headshotPeople diagnosed with OCD have habits or thoughts that significantly interfere with their functioning. For example, one patient may spend so much time, carrying out some other ritual that they are unable to go to work. Others are so preoccupied that they have an illness or that they have hurt someone that they can think or talk about little else. This is an important question, however, because there is a “dimension” of OCD, and there are some people whose habits are on the borderline of a disorder but they, and those around them, can manage with them. Continue reading


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