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Concha shuns public school for home schooling and tales of brave heroines

Sixteen-year-old Concha Rosales and her eight-foot rattler have prompted reader comments.  Some don’t say it outright but seem stirred by a fear of snakes.  Some frankly say that no “rational” 16-year-old girl would be so “reckless.”

Serendipitously, in the last days of October, a team of scientists released a study showing that part of this reaction is embedded in us by ancient evolutionary inheritance reaching back to our primate relatives 60 million years ago.  We, like them, have a special pronounced cerebral ability to recognize snakes. That’s because of a region of the brain known as the pulvinar.  Anthropologists and scientists have just reported that this cluster of neurons is a legacy from our primate past.  Evolving humanoids found safety in trees at night; it was a fairly secure place to sleep.  Unfortunately, snakes like to hunt in trees at night.  Pulvinar neurons were a slowly developed response to this danger.  And that danger-warning reaction survives today, causing many of us to be not merely wary of snakes, but somewhat hysterical about them.  In other humans the pulvinar response seems to twine with experience (or a more practical primal response) to prompt a calmer vigilant way when sensing the presence of snakes. 

Thus, uncontrollable fear of snakes is not always common among children.  Example: Shortly after I was born my mother divorced my father, a charming drunk who came from a line of alcoholic business executives.  He inherited their taste for booze but not for success.  Long before that a single mom was seen as a feminist triumph; she found herself looking for a job as the tail end of the Great Depression continued plowing under swaths of the Great Plains.  She also sought a place for her two-year-old son.  I was deposited in places with abundant fresh air and food: three economically depressed farms/ranches.  In contrast, her life was lived some distance away in a metropolis, where there were more job opportunities.

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