Ten years ago I made a copy of the following global statistics1:
* 100,000,000 people have no shelter
* 1,300,000,000 have no safe water to drink
* 800,000,000 live in absolute poverty
* 880,000,000 adults cannot read or write
* 10,000,000 babies are born malnourished every year
* 14,000,000 children die of hunger every year
Because of continued population growth, the ongoing stress upon natural resources and my own direct observation of circumstances in many developing countries, I do not need more recent numbers to apprise me that these conditions, especially as they relate to the treatment of infants and children, are worse, not better, in 2001.
A recent study by Dr. Martin Teicher of Mclean Hospital, a psychiatric center affiliated with Harvard Medical School concluded that child abuse and neglect can "rewire" the nascent brain, "which may lead to psychological problems throughout adulthood." These results will be no surprise to prenatal and perinatal psychologists.
Using "high-tech brain imaging" Dr. Teicher identified four types of brain abnormalities-all of which were linked to child abuse and neglect.
The abuse-related brain damage appears to foster such problems as adult aggressiveness, depression, anxiety and even memory and attention impairment. The report confirms smaller studies showing that the brain "rewires" itself in response to trauma. A child's interactions with the outside environment causes connections to form between brain cells. These connections are pruned during puberty and adulthood. So whatever a child experiences, for good or bad, helps determine how his brain is wired. This is not something people can just get over with and get on with their lives.2
Dr. Peter Van Houten, M.D. the Medical Director of the Sierra Family Medical Clinic supports these finding when he wrote, in Neurotheology: Religion and Science Converge in Brain Research
We (used to believe) that you inherited a brain with certain characteristics, and your experiences would affect your developing brain and nervous system for perhaps the first 15 or 20 years of your life. But at around 18 to 25, the brain would stop developing, and then it would be a race to see whether the body or the brain would wear out fastest, and whether you'd become senile or die first. But we now understand that the brain is constantly changing, and that it's without a doubt the most plastic organ in the body, because the moment we engage in any new behavior, the brain responds immediately by altering its structure and function.3
These findings, particularly as they relate to infants and children, are among the many reasons that the work done by those who are published in this Journal deserve the widest possible audience. So we invite you to attend the 10th International Congress, Birth: the Genesis of Health, December 6-9, 2001 at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco and explore with us the cutting-edge research in medicine and psychology, as it reveals how prenatal and perinatal environments shape human genetic expression and behavior.4
The essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good." So as I write this editorial I am listening to a CD entitled Secrets of Love: Melodies to Open Your Heart. You can find out about this music at firstname.lastname@example.org. The articles in this issue directly reflect this music and Emerson's aphorism.
Beverly Pierce in her article, Toning in Pregnancy and Labor, explores how chanting can aid the expectant mother during her pregnancy and labor, while Maria Lafuente and her colleagues present a follow up to their 1997 article on the Effects of the Firstart Method of Prenatal Stimulation on Psychomotor Development: From Six to Twelve Months. Firstart uses music to both soothe and stimulate the pregnant mother and her fetal child.
These articles relate to one of the fastest growing areas of music therapy and intervention, the use of music during pregnancy, delivery, and infancy. Additional information on the subject may be found at the APPPAH website: www.birthpsychology.com. Music and Perinatal Stress Reduction by Fred J. Schwartz, M.D. (originally published in the Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, 12(1), Fall 1997) and The Maternal Womb: The First Musical School for the Baby by Ruth Fridman, a pioneer in the field, who is the current President, International Music Society for Prenatal Development (IMSPD), are both available on line.
APPPAH Board member William R. Emerson, Ph.D. illustrates, using methods he has developed, how the severe trauma of cesarean born infants may be ameliorated in his case study, Treating Cesarean Birth Trauma During Infancy and Childhood. Aletha Solter, Ph.D. recapitulates her presentation at the 1999 APPPAH conference in Hold Me! The Importance of Physical Contact with Infants. In the Sharing Space and Book Reviews Dr. James W. Prescott comments in Along the Evolutionary Biological Trail on the book Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, and Maria Carella, M.Ed. reviews Carista Luminare-Rosen's book Parenting Begins Before Conception: A Guide To Preparing Body, Mind, and Spirit For You And Your Child.
1. Schlabach, G. W., (1990). And who is my neighbor? Poverty, privilege, and the Gospel of Christ. PA: Healds Press.
2. Goodman, T. (2000, December) Child abuse, neglect can trigger permanent brain damage [On-line]. Available: CNN.com Health Writer
3. Van Houten, P. Neurotheology: Religion and Science Converge in Brain Research [On-line]. Available: www.ananda.org/
4. Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health: 10th International Congress. (2001). Birth: The genesis of health [Brochure].
Ruth Johnson Carter, Ph.D.
Georgia College & State University