Friday, April 21, 2006

ScienceMatters @ Berkeley.

ScienceMatters @ Berkeley.: "Diamond's original plan was to launch her Enrichment In Action program at a hospital in Siem Reap, Cambodia where landmine-injured children had recovered. The director of the hospital introduced Diamond to a child with bandaged legs who would have to remain in the bed for six weeks.

'In our animal studies, we showed the brain could be statistically decreased in four days with a lack of stimulation,' Diamond says. 'What would happen to his brain in six weeks?'

As it turned out, there were actually very few children injured by land mines in the area at the time, but there were many orphans. Several years ago, the hospital directed Diamond to the Wat Racha Sin Khon orphanage in the forest near the temple of Angkor Wat in northwestern Cambodia. Managed by monks, the orphanage had no electricity, running water, or septic change. Conditions were brutal for the children living there, aged 10 to 17.
The children of the Racha Sin Khon orphanage.

The children of the Racha Sin Khon orphanage.

Diamond's first step was to get the kids on a better diet. In studies in Africa and elsewhere, Diamond had determined that nerve cells in the brain depend on healthy diets to form the branches, called dendrites, that enable learning. The orphans' meals of fish and rice, with the rare vegetable, wouldn't do the trick. The researchers' first action was to provide the children with vitamins and mineral supplements. Since then, the children planted a vegetable garden and the children's diet, Diamond says, has greatly improved.

'Meanwhile, the kids line up to take their vitamins that are handed out each day by the older children,' she says."

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