SAGE Journal Articles

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Neural Plasticity

Nelson, C. A. (1999). Neural plasticity and human development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 42-45.


This article describes the ways in which the brain changes in response to both positive and negative circumstances throughout development. The author suggests experiences may change the brain in a variety of ways including changes to the dendritic surface or metabolic functions, or by increasing or decreasing the release of neurotransmitters. Maladaptive changes, including stress during pregnancy or childhood, have been shown to increase the likelihood of long-lasting effects on physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development. Adaptive changes have also been found in children with regard to resiliency. The author suggests knowing more about how adaptable the brain is can help us to design more effective interventions for children at risk.

Discussion Questions:

  1. The research presented here suggests that stress during pregnancy may impact the size and structure of the hippocampus (a structure necessary for forming new memories). What would happen to the hippocampus if a child exposed to stress hormones in-utero were to be placed in a warm, nurturing, and stress-free environment? Would there be additional adaptive changes that might help to overcome any deficits caused by the stress hormones during pregnancy?
  2. Thinking about the role stress plays in creating maladaptive changes in the brain, the author describes research indicating a complex environment is more beneficial to development than a less interactive environment. How might an environment which is too complex, or too stimulating, end up being maladaptive?
  3. Much of the research on neuroplasticity has used animal models. Although we have new technology to allow us a look at the inner workings of the brain, we still continue to use animal models. Should we be concerned about making inferences about human abilities based on research conducted with animals?

Breastfeeding in Public

Mulready-Ward, C., & Hackett, M. (2014). Perception and attitudes: Breastfeeding in public in New York City. Journal of Human Lactation, 30, 195-200.


There is a significant amount of research indicating exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months has important long-term benefits. This article describes a study conducted in New York City to determine how accepting its citizens are of public breastfeeding. Using a telephone survey, the authors were able to determine that almost half of the respondents believed breastfeeding should only be done in private, a problem for a city with such a dense population. These results were surprising given New York State enacted a law protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in public over 20 years ago. Although the results of the study are correlational, the authors suggest one of the reasons mothers may stop breastfeeding before 6 months may have to do with the lack of support in the community for breastfeeding in public. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss whether or not you think these findings would hold true for other large cities across the country. What about smaller cities or more rural areas?
  2. This study found age and education level were two of the most important predictors for who would be supportive of breastfeeding in public. Why do you think those who are younger or have a higher level of education would be more supportive of breastfeeding in public?
  3. The results from the telephone survey suggest that only about one third of the respondents were actually uncomfortable with a woman breastfeeding near them. What might be some other reasons that can account for the high rates of disapproval of breastfeeding in public?