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What's Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
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What's Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,671 ratings  ·  191 reviews
As a research neuroscientist, Lise Eliot has made the study of the human brain her life's work. But it wasn't until she was pregnant with her first child that she became intrigued with the study of brain development. She wanted to know precisely how the baby's brain is formed, and when and how each sense, skill, and cognitive ability is developed. And just as important, sh ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published October 3rd 2000 by Bantam (first published 1999)
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Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
Just about every day as I was reading this book, I would flag an interesting sentence or paragraph to share with my partner. I found it fascinating, and before it goes back to the library I'm going to type up a few quotes to keep around for reference.

A few interesting things I learned:
* The flavor of your breast milk changes depending on what you eat.
* For optimal language development, it's important to have conversations with even young infants. You can do this with face-to-face contact and tak
(4.5) Great stuff, going to try to condense it a bit so it's actually accessible/actionable

Very well presented book covering mental development from conception to pre-school age. She breaks development down into several tracks: each of the senses, as well as motor, social/emotional, language, memory and "intelligence" development. She frequently cites studies in humans and animals to back her arguments, and I actually plan to track down a few of them to see if there have been more recent publica
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
I thought the idea of this book sounded great--learn how to be a better parent based on the science of brain development. However, I would argue there is not much science here. Yes, the stuff about sensory development is fine and well-supported, but the rest of the stuff (about intelligence and emotional development, for example) is total bunk. Much of it is based on behavioral psychology experiments in infants, which I find very unconvincing. I know this is the best that can be done in such you ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'll start off by saying that I loved this book! It's been by my bedside since before my son was born, and from hereon since his birth I'll continue to refer back to it. But, it's precisely because I found it such a useful read that it's short-comings seem to stand out so prominently for me.

I didn't mind the textbook nature of this book, which I found useful for jumping to and fro reading up on sections about certain developmental aspects of babies, but I did have a few gripes with the book:
1. T
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Four-month olds who are physically reactive (pumping limbs) but not irritable to new stimuli (like smiling or vocalizing) are likelier to end up on the bolder end of the spectrum. -What's going on in there, p. 321
Challenging memory is good for them. Get them to recall the important facts - the who, what , when, where, how, and why. -p. 350
Infants' ability to distinguish foreign speech sounds starts to diminish by 6 months - p.368
Try to limit saying "no"
Talk to and read to baby A LOT
Language exp
Katherine Parker
Mar 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents or people interested in knowing how the brain develops
Recommended to Katherine Parker by: Tilden
This book breaks down how the brain develops in babies and small children into chapters on the 5 senses, movement and balance, social and emotional development, language, conscience and a sense of right/wrong and consequences, and intelligence. It details where in the brain these elements of consciousness reside and how the mature, both neurologically and developmentally. It's fascinating subject matter, whether or not you have a baby, and the author makes it accessible to a lay-person without t ...more
Katie Clack
I read this a few years ago, out of pure curiosity of the brain and how it works. I might not be a parent, but have spent a huge majority of my life around children.
It was a fascinating read, I loved that it was written to the "normal" person. You do not have to be incredibly scientific to understand.
I loved being able to take my observations from childcare and realizing why young ones do the things they do. Even putting things in their mouth is for the purpose of figuring things out.
I would
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Pfew! I started this book around 3 weeks after my baby was born and finally finished it now as she is reaching 3.5 months.

Still, I thought it was a wonderfully written and highly informative book. I recommend it to anyone over, say, a parenting style book.

The only thing I felt was left out was any mention of sleep pattern. Since our little lady loves to fight sleep with every bit of strength I'm left wondering how sleep patterns develop and what effects sleep have on the brain, especially in i
Christine Ward
When I became pregnant with my first (and probably only) child, I wanted to know everything - and then became frustrated at the quality and oft-contradictory advice given to pregnant women. Most books or their online version were patronizing, if not downright condescending (*cough* What to Expect When You're Expecting *cough*), and the more literary, science-based guides were either awash in technical lingo or a mere blurb of the study in question. I wish I'd found this book then, but I'm glad I ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a lot to like about this book, but there are also some drawbacks. First, it covers a wider span of time than a lot of books, going from conception until five years (though really, except for a bit at the end, it doesn't go much past three). Some of the information was quite interesting, particularly the things that were directly related to the author's focus on neuroscience. There were a lot of behavioral studies used that seemed somewhat flimsy. Additionally, particularly when the topi ...more
Mar 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastic review of information re neurological/psychological developoment of infants and young children. It covers everything from sensory and motor development to emotional development and gives useful, research-driven tips about how to foster development across all areas.

Eliot has a great style that makes the research accessible without dumbing it down too much for the general audience. She mixes stories about hypothetical kids and tidbits from her own experience as a mother w
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book struck a good balance between presenting the science of brain development and practical matters that parents should think about with respect to the developing brains in their children. In particular, Eliot does a great job of describing the studies and how researchers were able to determine preferences in children. For instance, they've learned things about newborns by hooking up a pacifier to a machine that plays a tape of mom's voice if the baby sucks at one rate, and a stranger's vo ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for all parents! My doula/good friend gave it to me the day I came home from the hospital and it was my bedside companion for the first few months of being a mother. It helped get me thinking about the baby as a person that would some day speak to me! It helped me to understand many of the developmental stages he was going through and I now use it often as a go to reference. I skimmed some of the lengthy parts that detailed studies I wasn't interested in but most information ...more
Katharine Sadler
Jan 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. A scientific take on the nature/nurture debate, as well as an intricate explanation of how the major parts of the brain develop from conception on. Easy to follow, even for someone whose last science class was about ten years ago, and so interesting. Cool factoid: humans are actually getting smarter -- each generation has scored better on IQ tests (an admittedly fallible and questionable measure of intelligence) than the previous generation.
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this a few years ago and really liked learning about how the brain develops during pregnancy and shortly afterwards. A lot of fascinating, complicated processes really! I wasn't too keen on her referring to numerous animal studies---so I skimmed quickly over those. The biology is super interesting and at the end she gives some suggestions to parents about maximizing brain development.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book! loved it. Definitely one of the most interesting and educative books I have ever read. I did learn a lot about neuroscience and what one can do to improve brain development in kids. Must read for every single parent. Since this book talks about neurology in general, as well as for babies, it is one of the best science books I have ever read.
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fascinating....research on brain dev that helped me be a smarter, more patient mom (I hope.) It also allowed me to enjoy the _process_ of child dev without getting hung up on the end results (again, I hope.) Big take-away...sleep matters!
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had a hard time getting into this book as it started off with a lot of OHNOIFYOURENOTCAREFULYOURBABYCOULDSUFFER fear mongering that is nearly ubiquitous in baby books. I think it's a technique to get readers interested in reading the rest of the book but I'm not a fan.

Fortunately my OCD motivated me to complete what I started and I'm really glad I did. Once you get past the dire warnings phase, this book is pretty good! Each section essentially comes in three parts:

1. the basic anatomy/physiol
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great knowledge for parents and parents to be. Too academia to my taste.

Almost every parent wants his or her child to be intelligent, to be as clever as can be. This is a book that sheds some light on how a baby's brain grows and what a parent can do to support that growth.

I was expecting to learn about how a baby thinks. Not too much material on that. I guess that's because it is extremely difficult to understand what a baby understands.

Instead, the author cited lot's of research and described
Srikanth Reddy Lingala
I enjoyed reading this book. A must read for every parent who wants to provide the best care for their child (and who doesn't?). This book has a lot of scientific information as well for those interested in those topics, but it doesn't mean that this book is a scientific read. It has a perfect blend of both scientific and "general" topics, probably a little more on the non-scientific side, which makes it even more interesting (at least for me) and doesn't make it feel like you are reading a tech ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was one of the first books I read when I found out that I was pregnant. For me, what I liked in this book more than some others I checked out was that the author references studies for the assertions that she makes and she explains them in a way that is not too dumbed down to be useful, but still accessible to the average reader. Each section is broken down focuses on some aspect of neurological development.

The cons of this book is that it says that it is about the first five years of life
Shane Duquette
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A deep dive into the neuroscience of brain development as fetuses become babies and as children grow into adults. I feel like I can better understand what's going on inside my little 6-week-old's head, and it also gives a lot of great advice for how to interact with children at various ages—babbling with newborns, labelling the world for infants in motherese, and reading to toddlers, for example.
I couldn't finish. Partly because my download had some formatting errors (which have been corrected thanks to Amazon resending it) and partly because the language is so scientific. Some writers make science writing fun. This one wasn't so fun, sorry. Not my cuppa. Maybe I'll pick it up again someday, but not that likely.
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I adore the way research is presented in this book. Can we know with 100% accuracy what an infant is thinking? No. I believe infant studies are fallible, but author presents the findings of the studies in a clear, understandable way, with a non-biased interpretation. I appreciate her minimal amount of humor, and generous amount of insight that still makes an interesting read without humor.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children
If you're a new or prospective parent, this is one of the few books that you should read. it's rendered most of the rest of the books I've read useless and I feel like I understand development much better.
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book as a recommendation for adoptive parents. It explains in great detail what happens in brain development and what occurs in neglected/ institutionalized settings. I found it helpful in understanding the background of my little one's development.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Informative. Some things repetitive from other child development books. There were chapters that delved deeper into the effects hormones and genetics play in fetal development which I found to be very interesting and insightful. All in all I enjoyed it in one sitting.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lisa Eliot gives the reader a comprehensive look at how the brain grows and what defines, comprises and encourages intelligence. Unfortunately, I don’t know how many parents would have the time to read the book.
Jun 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
Well researched, fairly up-to-date, and accessible without being dumbed-down; although I did find myself searching for more concrete advice on how to apply the developmental knowledge as a parent.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read, but there is no indexing in the Kindle edition, which makes it impossible to navigate from one chapter to another.
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Lise Eliot is a mother of three, and the Associate Professor of Neuroscience at The Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University. She is the author of What’s Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life.
“It's the strangest feeling at the end of pregnancy: you look down at this huge belly and try to imagine how some little person, whom you haven't even met, is going to emerge from it any day and completely change your lives. First, you wonder how this pregnancy, to which you've grown so accustomed over much of the last year, can, with barely any notice, come to an abrupt end. Then you try to fathom how this baby is ever going to come out; your bowling ball stomach seems misproportioned for what lies between it and the outside world. And only then do you realize what it all means-that the easy part, pregnancy, is almost over, and it's time to gear up for the tough stuff: childbirth!” 9 likes
“So what does any of this have to do with maternal stress during pregnancy? It turns out that high doses of many of the major stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, interfere with testosterone production. Men, for instance, show a decreased level of circulating testosterone when they are significantly stressed. Because maternal stress hormones can cross the placenta, it has been proposed that pregnant females who are highly stressed may release sufficient quantities of adrenal hormones to interfere with the usual testosterone surge in male fetuses, thereby nudging their brains toward more feminine behavior, including a propensity for homosexuality.” 2 likes
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