My favorite section of the NY Times is Science Times published every Tuesday. I learn a great deal from their small segments that highlight the latest research in medicine and science. I will discuss a recent segment entitled Mothers’ Sounds Help Babies Brain Grow, found in the printed newspaper’s Neurology section and online under Parenting (February 23, 2015) I will also discuss the research and conclusions of Allan Schore, M.D., leading researcher in the field of neuropsychology influencing the fields of affective neuroscience, neuropsychiatry, trauma theory and developmental psychology.
These research updates continue to validate intricacies of the mind/body connection delineated by Wilhelm Reich M.D. These research summaries look at the impact of the mother/fetus dyad on brain development in-utero and on later critical developmental periods. My short discussion of Allan’s Schore’s research conclusions corroborates how critical early resonant attachment experiences are critical to complete brain development. As we mature into adulthood, we hopefully have acquired a necessary platform to survive and flourish. We need a solid infrastructure created, in part, through our earliest developmental experiences. Without a stable and complete platform, we cobble together basic survival patterns. These patterns are often impaired ones at best and are not equipped to develop a Self that can go beyond survival to health, creativity and authentic, stable relationships.
The essence of the first short synopsis of current research, accomplished at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is that the sound of the mother’s voice and heartbeat play a critical role in a baby’s brain development in-utero. There have been multiple studies on the critical role of the mother’s voice in development. The Boston study, however, shows that premature babies in incubators that had tiny speakers placed inside and who listened to their mothers’ voices and heartbeats for 3 extra hours every day had a significantly larger auditory cortex, the hearing center of the brain, than those in the second group who did not receive additional exposure to those sounds.
The study involved 40 babies born 8 to 15 weeks premature. Because they were restricted to an incubator, they spent limited time with their mothers. Half the babies were exposed to their mothers’ voices and heartbeats for 3 extra hours and the others received no additional exposure to those sounds. This was a 30-day study. The findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and can help define elements of care for premature babies. The segment states, “Now, researchers have demonstrated that the brain itself may rely on a mother’s voice and heartbeat to grow.”
I have lectured in my live classes on the neurobiological research of Allan Schore M.D. who studied the effects of attachment experiences on brain development. Neurobiological development is an interactive, highly effective system of emotional, non-verbal as well as verbal, communication. Further the mother, or caregiver, stimulates, mediates and modulates the environment for the infant and growing baby thus ensuring healthy development through all phases.
One theory within Schore’s large body of elegant research, focuses on the maturation center of the prefrontal cortex established during two specifically critical periods. One is at the end of the first year of life – 10-12 months – and the other in the 2nd year with onset of socialization – 14-16 months old. Dr. Schore emphasizes the importance of the attuned, resonant dyadic attachment with the mother starting with significant eye contact between infant and mother. The resonant attachment transactions affect the entire biological system: neuroendocrine, structural neurological changes deep into the limbic system, and ultimately impacting the balance of the autonomic nervous system. By 18 months, under ‘good enough’ attachment circumstances, a mature, differentiated frontal cortex is developed that helps the child and later adult regulate their behaviors and emotions in a mature way. The prefrontal cortex is the center for control of feelings, motivations and social functioning. Let’s just say that when this center is not developed properly, we have, among other symptoms, impulsiveness, lack of good habits, and impaired social functioning.
Dr. Schore went so far as to say that our earliest neurological wiring is the under pinning of the development of the Self. The neurobiological symbiosis between mother and child is the engine, the fuel and the master plan of development of critical areas of the brain that allow the Self to develop. Ponder that!
From the above information, I hope you can see that our physiological/biological/psychological aspects are one and the same. Orgonomy therapeutically incorporates this functional identity of mind and body. In my last post, I discussed touch in psychotherapy. Given this discussion, you might see how a resonant therapeutic dyadic relationship including therapeutic touch can help reprogram, if you will, our nervous system to settle and establish regulation thereby redirecting our choices toward health rather than dysfunction.