It wasn’t until Rebecca Wiesenthal’s oldest son, John, turned 3 and started preschool that she began to worry about his language development. John did not talk much and when he did, he used made-up words — such as “mop” for milk — that his teachers could not understand. “My husband had to make a dictionary for them so they would understand what he was saying,” Wiesenthal says. But she herself had been a late talker and had then suddenly produced full sentences at age 3. She figured her son’s language might follow the same pattern.
My reporting and writing on science, health, learning, parenting and other subjects has appeared in many publications including Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American Mind, Parents, and Redbook. Here are some selected articles ranging from my latest work to a few old favorites.
At a crowded party or a noisy restaurant, most of us do something that is remarkable. Out of all the voices surrounding us, our brains pick out the one we want to hear and focus on what that person has to say. People with hearing loss are not so fortunate. Noisy situations are especially difficult for them and hearing aids and cochlear implants do not help much. Such technology generally either amplifies all voices or mushes them together so they are indistinguishable.
The vast majority of neuroscientific studies contain three elements: a person, a cognitive task and a high-tech machine capable of seeing inside the brain. That simple recipe can produce powerful science. Such studies now routinely yield images that a neuroscientist used to only dream about. They allow researchers to delineate the complex neural machinery that makes sense of sights and sounds, processes language and derives meaning from experience.
Social media is linked to depression—or not. First-person shooter video games are good for cognition—or they encourage violence. Young people are either more connected—or more isolated than ever.
Such are the conflicting messages about the effects of technology on children’s well-being. Negative findings receive far more attention and have fueled panic among parents and educators. This state of affairs reflects a heated debate among scientists. Studies showing statistically significant negative effects are followed by others revealing positive effects or none at all—sometimes using the same data set.