The fable[ edit ] The tale concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking wolves are attacking his flock. When a wolf actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers believe that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf. In later English-language poetic versions of the fablethe wolf also eats the boy. For this reason, there was no agreed title for the story.
Unknown A couple years ago a preliminary study came out looking at the cortisol levels of infants undergoing extinction sleep training. In short, the infants had stopped crying themselves to sleep but remained distressed.
This latter part has sadly been largely ignored even though that was actually the primary take-home message from the research. Those who are against extinction sleep training methods have used this study to argue that we have preliminary evidence that such training results or rather, can result in high levels of cortisol during and even after the period of sleep training and can have negative effects on the parent-child relationship.
We all know about the degree to which prolonged and extreme levels of cortisol negatively affect the developing brain.
Extreme stress during infancy is a horrible, horrible thing for a child to endure. The question becomes, however, how stressful is extinction sleep training?
With the Little boy crying research coming out, the argument seems to have shifted from the idea that extinction sleep training does no harm to the acknowledgement that extinction sleep training does result in high levels of cortisol, as  has demonstrated, but only temporarily.
The argument thus becomes… Babies may experience spikes in cortisol Little boy crying extinction sleep training but as humans experience stressful situations regularly — and the associated rises in cortisol — then this is no different from what humans experience throughout life.
Indeed, some have argued that the experience of these situations actually benefits us as we need the occasional boost of cortisol now and again as abnormally low levels of cortisol are also problematic.
A little bit of cortisol never hurt anyone, did it? The period of hyporesponsivity. What is the Period of Hyporesponsivity? The period of hyporesponsivity was first detected in rodent development and has since been found to occur in human infants as well; in short, it involves a temporal period in development in which it is difficult to elicit a cortical response in an otherwise securely-attached child insecure attachment is associated with cortisol increases to various situations .
For human babies, this temporal period starts at about two months of age and develops throughout the first year of life with infants showing a strong hyporesponsive response by one year often by 4 monthsand a currently-unknown end-date though it looks to be around the 3 year mark.
Specifically, the usual markers of mild-moderate stressors in the case of research with humans it is inoculations which are actually rather painful will continue to elicit a behaviour response of crying, but there will be no associated cortisol spike.
Thus, there is a behavioural-physiological mismatch that results from this period of hyporesponsivity. Importantly, one behaviour that does elicit a cortisol response is separation from a caregiver as it is us caregivers who help buffer these negative emotional situations.
Specifically, in one study, securely-attached 9-month-old infants did not show a rise in cortisol for approximately 30 minutes when separated from their mother, but were left with a babysitter so long as the babysitter was responsive to their distress.
However, if the babysitter was non-responsive there was a significant increase in cortisol. Why does this happen? Because hyporesponsivity is obtained by social buffering — our infants need us to buffer this cortical response.
In one study with non-human primates, the mere presence of the mother during a stressful event like capture buffered the elevations in cortisol associated with the stressful event.
See the effects of the still-face paradigm if you believe sitting and not responding will actually help. The Evolutionary Dilemma This is the where we hit the evolutionary dilemma: For human infants and infants of other species to have a period of hyporesponsivity, there is likely an important developmental reason.
Let me take a step back and explain in more detail. We have to start with the knowledge that extreme stress and prolonged bouts of high cortisol negatively influence neural development.
Evolutionarily, this makes sense. An infant raised in an environment in which he or she is not safe has to be acutely aware of the stress around them. It may mean the difference between life and death down the line. We also know that the effects of stress start very early and even moderate levels can influence development.
For example, mothers who experience higher levels of cortisol during pregnancy have children with different behavioural patterns i. Namely, the infant needs to know what kind of world he or she is coming into and maternal stress is one valuable piece of the puzzle.
Now, as with any evolutionary trait, there are two possibilities: Now we have to question if the period of hyporesponsivity is a benign effect or a positive one.
My hypothesis is that it is a positive one, or rather, it is the expected, normal outcome and anything that deviates is actually providing critical information for the developing brain. First, looking at the extreme examples of neglect and abuse, we see the role of cortisol on neural development and it is certainly not benign.
Second, the period of hyporesponsivity occurs during peak neurological development i.
Specifically, the areas of the brain associated with early stress are the amygdala, limbic brain structures, and white matter. For a great review of brain development in the first three years and the associated structures, see here.
Given the aforementioned link between severe, chronic stress and later outcomes, is it any surprise the brain tries to protect itself?
Of course there is a difference between temporary stress and chronic maltreatment, but the combination of what is developing during this timeframe and the evolutionary mechanism of socially-buffered hyporesponsivity suggests to me the main goal of parenting is to attempt to avoid these stressors during this time-frame.
Third, the behaviour or circumstances that elicit cortisol spikes in infancy during this period of hyporesponsivity are moderate-severe pain, abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a caregiver with no responsive substitute.
Indeed, as previously mentioned, if a caregiver or substitute, for up to 30 minutes is present and responsive, a child can be in mild-moderate pain or crying hysterically, but there is a disconnect between the behaviour crying and physiology no cortisol response .Critics Consensus: The Crying Game is famous for its shocking twist, but this thoughtful, haunting mystery grips the viewer from start to finish.
Just look at that bottom!
Mr Heller was at his local shopping mall and saw a very cute boy leaning on the top floor terrace looking down on the shoppers. There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, "Wolf!
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