Let’s focus on the brain! We talked to expert author Leanne Boucher Gill, who is is a professor of psychology at Nova Southeastern University, where she received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award and was named the NSU STUEY Professor of the Year. She maintains an active research program studying how exercise affects the way we think. Her new book for younger readers is all about the human brain. Magination Press: What inspired you to write Lobe Your Brain: What Matters About Your Grey Matter? Leanne Boucher Gill: I love reading children’s books! I use funny voices and really get into it because I love the giggles that erupt from my kids when I read them. And their questions are always so interesting. Oftentimes we’ll end up talking about related topics from the books we read, like what happened to the dinosaurs, why hurricanes happen, or even why we have to share our toys with strangers. I wanted to write a kids’ book about my favorite part of the body—the brain—because I want kids to realize just how amazing it is. MP: Why is it important for kids to know about neurology and brain structure? LBG: I think it’s important to understand that the brain is responsible for everything we do, from walking to talking to feeling. It’s also important to understand how to take care of our brains by exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep. MP: Why did you decide to focus on the lobes of the brain? LBG: The brain can be divided in many different ways. As an introduction to the brain, the four lobes are easy to describe both in terms of where they are and some of the basic functions that they help us to do, like how visual information is processed in the occipital lobe. Understanding the different functions of different brain areas lets kids know that the brain isn’t just a mush of tissue between their ears, but rather that it is a beautiful structure that is laid out purposefully. MP: It can be really difficult to explain these complex neurological ideas to young children. Why did you decide to write a book for 6- to 8-year-olds? How did you make these concepts accessible and engaging for young children? LBG: I wanted to write a children’s book on the brain because I truly think it is fascinating. There weren’t many books written for this age group on the brain. There are so many other science-related books out there for children to get them curious about how the world works. I have been organizing public events through libraries and museums since my children were babies. I think many of the complex neurological topics you refer to are not all that difficult to explain if you can think the way a child does. I don’t believe in “dumbing it down”, but rather I try to relate neurological concepts to concepts children are familiar with, like trees. I remember I was doing one programRead More
About Leanne Boucher Gill, PhDLeanne Boucher Gill, PhD, is a professor of psychology at Nova Southeastern University, where she received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award and was named the NSU STUEY Professor of the Year. She maintains an active research program studying how exercise affects the way we think. She lives in South Florida. Visit her on Twitter.
Have you ever wondered why your heart races when you are scared or why you need sleep? Your child might. Big Brain Book: How It Works and All Its Quirks by Leanne Boucher Gill, PhD, is a book for kids who are interested in how the brain works! Read The Big Brain Book in order or jump around. Either way, your child will be in awe of the squishy organ between their ears. Here’s a sample of some of the questions answered in Big Brain Book: How It Works and All Its Quirks. Brain Anatomy: How is my brain different from the brains of other animals? Most mammals, including humans, and birds have nervous systems set up with the brain located inside the head and the spinal cord in the back that acts as an information highway between the brain and body. In animals other than mammals and birds, nervous systems are a little different. For example, take the giant squid. This cephalopod not only has three hearts, but has a brain shaped like a donut! What is even stranger is that its esophagus goes right through the middle of its donut brain. If the giant squid swallows something really giant, it could potentially damage its brain as the food travels down its esophagus to its stomach. On land, there are some spiderlings (baby spiders) and very tiny adult spiders whose brains are so large relative to their body size that some of the brains end up in their legs. They’re walking brains! On the other hand, cockroaches don’t even need a brain to keep walking. If their heads get cut off, the neck seals itself and the cockroach keeps on living, walking around, until it starves to death! Ew! ...In the ocean, when a sea squirt finally latches onto an object, be it a coral, the ocean floor, or a boat, they eat the part of their nervous system that controls their movement, their cerebral ganglia. Ganglia is the scientific term for a bunch of neurons that work together in one area. The sea squirt won’t be able to move anymore, but it’s a small price to pay for the delicious meal they just ate! The answer also contains information about differences between humans and other animals in brain structure, brain size and intelligence. Brain and Body: Why can’t we tickle ourselves? Skin is the way we get information about the world—how cold or hot it is, how windy the day is, and whether or not something (or someone) is touching us... Throughout your skin, there are specialized receptors for touch called mechanoreceptors. Different mechanoreceptors respond to different kinds of touch information, including tickling sensations. When these mechanoreceptors are activated by tickling, they send a message to the somatosensory cortex (Chapter 11) that something (or someone) has touched you. Notice that the message sent to the brain is that “you’ve been touched”, not “you’ve been tickled.” In order for you to feel tickled, a lot more needs to happen.Read More