When children start to reason their first attempts set up
Direct relations linking things and facts.
Money goes into wallets – that what a wallet’s for -
The reasóning is simple, on straight tracks.
But soon come novel problems less easy to sort out,
Requiring complex jumping to and fro.
Reasoning’s now more fluid, more elements in play,
And handling them comes only as brains grow.
Our large prefrontal cortex sets us apart from apes,
Exceeding theirs in growth and adult size.
As children play while under scans observers plainly see
The flow of brain blood grow before their eyes.
Links of neurons grow to thread the brain from front to back –
The parietal cortex enters use.
The child now grows apace into a subtler reasoning power –
Integrating words, facts, visual cues,
This network is the crucial thing in growing complex thought
And can be strengthened as the young child grows –
Leading to better reasoning, with ever changing games,
And practice, practice, practice on the go.
The brain, you see, is plastic and malleable too,
And front to back connections can be strengthened.
Even college students who faced their law exams
Showed better scores as training sessions lengthened.
Can we foresee a time when neuroscience builds more tools
That lead to growth and changes in the brain?
That we can grow in wisdom as well as gather facts?
Let’s hope that ethics make this path a gain!

Phyllis Brooks Schafer
Kosmos Club Member and Secretary
(A century-old group of Berkeley intellectuals)