The New York Times today sings the praises of middle childhood, that often overlooked stage from about age 5 to 13. Preschoolers and angsty teens may get all the attention, but kids in this age group are undergoing a stage of development whose importance is only now becoming evident to experts in the field, writes Natalie Angier. The physical changes aren't as pronounced as those in the earlier and later stages, but the developmental ones are, as a recent issue of Human Nature devoted to the subject makes clear.
"It is a time of great cognitive creativity and ambition, when the brain has pretty much reached its adult size and can focus on threading together its private intranet service—on forging, organizing, amplifying and annotating the tens of billions of synaptic connections that allow brain cells and brain domains to communicate," writes Angier. Or as one anthropologist puts it, "Kids can do something now." Part of the new research focuses on a surge of hormones (released during a stage called adrenarche) that appears to help with brain maturation. Read the full, fascinating article here.