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Why a baby needs to see sharp contrasts

In its earliest months a baby's brain lays down its main "visual pathways". Its cortex has six layers of cells which transmit different signals from the retina in

the eyes along optic nerves to the back of the brain. One layer, for example, transmits horizontal lines, one vertical. Other layers or columns handle circles, squares and triangles. If a baby was to see only horizontal lines, for example, then when it crawled or walked it would continually be banging into the legs of tables and chairs because its "visual pathways" could not process vertical lines.

American scientists Torstein Wiesel and David Hubel won the Nobel prize for showing that such early sensory experience is essential for teaching brain cells their jobs.

Says Ronald Kotulak: "Even if a person's brain is perfect, if it does not process visual experiences by the age of two the person will not be able to see, and if it does

not hear words by age ten, the person will never learn a language." That is why Glenn Doman has for more than 30 years recommended exposing babies to strong black-and-white contrasting shapes from birth, rather than using bland

pastel wall coverings.

RONALD KOTULAK. Inside The Brain. Published by Andrews and McMeel (1996), 4520 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64111, USA.