It was discovered in 1543, but its role was not clearly understood (duh) until many years later.
The job of white matter is to provide communication between the various regions of the brain, especially the communication between the right and left hemispheres.
White matter is an extensive, intertwining system of connections between brain cells (neurons) that join all four lobes of the brain and the emotional center of the brain (the limbic system).
It's such an important connection that it's rather like people in bubbles who are all talking, but not to each other. Not much gets done without communication.
So, what does this have to do with slow processing speed? Everything.
- using working memory
- shifting gears
- starting tasks
- finishing tasks
- maintaining attention while working
- maintaining emotional control
- stopping before saying or doing something inappropriate
- using reasonable processing speed
- organizing materials
This little guy will need to have brought home the right materials, information about the assignment, remember the information he was taught today and every other day of his brief educational career and the stuff he learned along the way in his young life before he sits down to actually do the work! Once he sits down, he must organize the things he has to do first, collect the "utensils" of homework, fight off fatigue, pay no attention to all the things going on in the family environment, and finally, do the work.
It's a lot to ask of a young brain considering that the formation of the myelin is not complete until about 20 years. He'll be finishing up college at that point. Wowser...
Later in life, white matter deficits contribute to the mild cognitive impairment which is often seen as the precursor to Alzheimer's disease.
Speed of processing is likely to plague your child for remainder of their years before they head to college. In college, they can arrange their classes in such a way as to minimize the strain on their processing speed. When they choose an occupation or profession, it will likely not be one where speed, but accuracy and competence, is the focus.
The more you know, the more you can help your child.
Just do the best you can. TTFN, Claudia
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