The Organization Of A Childs Brain Is Affected By Early Experiences
Why would the brain create more synapses than it needs, only to discard the extras? The answer lies in the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in brain development.
The early stages of development are strongly affected by genetic factors for example, genes direct newly formed neurons to their correct locations in the brain and play a role in how they interact.12,13 However, although they arrange the basic wiring of the brain, genes do not design the brain completely.14,15
Instead, genes allow the brain to fine-tune itself according to the input it receives from the environment. A childs senses report to the brain about her environment and experiences, and this input stimulates neural activity. Speech sounds, for example, stimulate activity in language-related brain regions. If the amount of input increases synapses between neurons in that area will be activated more often.
Repeated use strengthens a synapse. Synapses that are rarely used remain weak and are more likely to be eliminated in the pruning process. Synapse strength contributes to the connectivity and efficiency of the networks that support learning, memory, and other cognitive abilities.16,17 Therefore, a childs experiences not only determine what information enters her brain, but also influence how her brain processes information.
Encourage A Love Of Learning
Young children need to enjoy the process of learning instead of focusing on performance. Educators and parents can emphasize the joys of trying new activities and learning something novel. We need to help children understand that mistakes are a welcome, normal part of learning.
This period is also the time to establish a growth mindsetthe belief that talents and abilities are developed through effort instead of being innately fixed. Educators should avoid labeling children or making universal statements about their ability. Even compliments such as Youre so smart are counterproductive. Instead, emphasize persistence and create safe spaces for learning. Children will learn to love learning if we show enthusiasm over the process rather than fixating on results.
In Babies Crucial Neural Connections Happen Before Age Three
Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci Tech Now North Carolina, a weekly science series that airs Tuesdays on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter’s Blog!
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Neuroscientists Reveal How The Brain Can Enhance Connections
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When the brain forms memories or learns a new task, it encodes the new information by tuning connections between neurons. MIT neuroscientists have discovered a novel mechanism that contributes to the strengthening of these connections, also called synapses.
At each synapse, a presynaptic neuron sends chemical signals to one or more postsynaptic receiving cells. In most previous studies of how these connections evolve, scientists have focused on the role of the postsynaptic neurons. However, the MIT team has found that presynaptic neurons also influence connection strength.
This mechanism that weve uncovered on the presynaptic side adds to a toolkit that we have for understanding how synapses can change, says Troy Littleton, a professor in the departments of Biology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, a member of MITs Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and the senior author of the study, which appears in the Nov. 18 issue of Neuron.
Richard Cho, a research scientist at the Picower Institute, is the papers lead author.
How Are Neural Pathways Formed
A new neural pathway forms when you encounter a piece of information for the first time. For example, a young child already has existing neural pathways for common fruit like apples and bananas. But the first time they encounter something exotic, like dragon fruit, for example, the brain checks: is it an apple? No. Is it a banana? No. So it must be something new and a new neural pathway is formed.
Then the child interacts with the thought: what colour is it, what does it smell like etc. The more the child thinks about the dragon fruit, the more the pathway is used and the more dominant it becomes. If the child never thinks about dragon fruit again, glial cells will come and erase the pathway in about 24 hours, and the pathway becomes inactive.
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Oxytocin And Vasopressin Can Affect Behavior By Wireless Signaling
Let me use another example. The neuropeptides, oxytocin and vasopressin, are made by large neurons in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that is important in regulating many physiological processes of the body. These large neurons have one axon that goes all the way to a specialized gland, the pituitary gland, which is attached to the bottom of the brain. From there, the neuropeptides are released from the axon terminals directly into the blood. Oxytocin travels through the body and has a role in childbirth and breastfeeding. Vasopressin affects blood pressure and regulates the bodys water balance through the kidneys. But both neuropeptides are also released into the brain, where they control several sorts of behavior. For example, oxytocin helps a mother to bond with her child, and vasopressin affects memory and aggression. However, the brain areas that control these behaviors are sometimes far from the cells that make the neuropeptides. Some of these areas have the right receptors but no axons and terminals nearby, so that wired signaling by oxytocin and vasopressin cannot occur.
- Figure 3
- Oxytocin is released into the blood from axons in the pituitary gland and into the brain from the dendrites of neurons in the hypothalamus . Oxytocin acts both in the body and in the brain to make sure the child gets food and love .
Neural Pathways And Memory
When you receive a new piece of information, studying for a test maybe, a new neural pathway is formed. The more you think or use that neural pathway, the more dominant it becomes. So, the more you revise your study material over and over, the easier it becomes to remember specific things in your work. If you dont revise, you forget things.
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Bridging The Nutritional Gap For The Brain With Rich Supplements
In order to support kids’ brain development & focus, some parents may turn to nutritional supplements formulated for kids’ brains. Ideally, getting everything a kid needs from whole foods would be great, but the amount of nutrients that the brain needs are hard to obtain from the standard American diet consistently. If mom and dad have a picky eater on their hands, feeding the brain properly without supplementation is near impossible.
Supplements, like our Kids Brain Boost smoothie, allows parents to sneak brain foods for kids into their diets without the squabbling. Busy parents can give their toddler one nutrient-packed snack that will promote healthy brain growth. If they have an older child, supplementing their diet with healthy snacks that allow them to sneak their vitamins in will help their child focus and get better grades. What should they be eating? Well, there are specific ingredients proven to promote healthy brain growth in children. Omega 3sOmega 3s are thought to be the building blocks of neurological development. Kids who get the proper amount of omega 3s are at a decreased risk of developmental delay. They often have better communication skills and fewer behavioral problems.
More Brain Connections Than Stars In The Universe No Not Even Close
In Reality Check on at 11:35 pm
Our observable universe is huge. Make that really huge. So if you have ever read that our brain connections outnumber the stars in the universe , I hope you frowned in skepticism.
Cosmic Microwave Background map of the universe
Here are the real numbers:
Neurons : 10^11, or 100 billion
Synapses : 10^14, or 100 trillion
Stars : 7 x 10^22 thats 70 sextillion!
For every brain synapse we have, there are 700 million stars somewhere out there. In other words, the number of stars per human synapse is about the number of people in Europe. Only if we count up the synapses of all the people alive do we get a number comparable to the star count.
How could confusion arise on such a whopping difference? The mistake is clear in my first link above . The site assumes that most stars are in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Thats monumentally incorrectour galaxy is unexceptional among the approximately 100 billion galaxies within detectable range. On the bright side, this fact suggests an easy correction for our myth:
The number of synapses in the human brain is larger than the number of galaxies in the observable universe. Also, there are more synapses in an average human brain than there are stars in our Milky Way galaxy.
The core of the Milky Way. Our solar system is a microscopic spec of dust in there.
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Babys Brain Begins Now: Conception To Age 3
Thanks to recent advances in technology, we have a clearer understanding of how these effects are related to early brain development. Neuroscientists can now identify patterns in brain activity that appear to be associated with some types of negative early experiences.1
But the long-term effects of early stress, poverty, neglect and maltreatment were well documented and virtually uncontested years before we could see them with brain scanning tools. So why should we need an understanding of brain development to show us how important childrens earliest experiences are for their well-being? Isnt neuroscience just telling us what we already know?
Actually, there are several reasons why we should pay attention to the evidence provided by neuroscience. For instance, it may help us learn exactly how experiences affect children. This knowledge can aid our efforts to help children who are at risk and to undo, where possible, the effects of early adversity. Additionally, neuroscientists may help us learn when experiences affect children. If there are specific periods of vulnerability to certain types of experiences, then understanding these patterns will improve our attempts at intervention.
Not All Brains Are Created Equal: Cognitive Abilities And Numbers Of Neurons
The different cellular scaling rules that apply to rodent, primate and insectivore brains show very clearly that brain size cannot be used indiscriminately as a proxy for numbers of neurons in the brain, or even in a brain structure, across orders. By maintaining the average neuronal size invariant as brain size changes, primate brains scale in size in a much more space-saving, economical manner compared to the inflationary growth that occurs in rodents, in which larger numbers of neurons are accompanied by larger neurons.
The cognitive consequences of this difference, which allows primate brains to enjoy the benefits of a large increase in numbers of neurons without the otherwise associated cost of a much larger increase in overall brain volume, can be glimpsed by returning to the comparison between rodents and primates of similar brain size. Now that absolute numbers of neurons can be compared across the similar-sized brains of agoutis and owl monkeys, and of capybaras and capuchin monkeys ,4), the expected correlation between cognitive ability and numbers of neurons is actually found to hold: with 1468 million neurons, owl monkeys have almost twice as many neurons in the brain as agoutis , and about four times more neurons in the cerebral cortex than the agouti . Likewise, the capuchin monkey brain has more than twice the number of neurons of the larger-brained capybara , and also about four times more neurons in the cerebral cortex .
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Neurons In Other Animals
According to Herculano-Houzel, human brains are remarkably similar to primate brains with one important distinction: we have far more brain cells that require a tremendous amount of energy to fuel and maintain.
Experts suggest that an estimated 25% of humans’ energy expenditure goes toward fueling all of these brain cells.
The sheer number of neurons present in the human brain becomes more apparent when compared to other species. So how many neurons are in the brains of other animals?
- Fruit fly: 100 thousand neurons
- Mouse: 75 million neurons
- Chimpanzee: 7 billion neurons
- Elephant: 257 billion neurons
While the human brain might not have the mythic 100 billion neurons as long suspected, 86 billion is still nothing to sneeze at.
Stress Is A Path Of Least Resistance
In line with understanding how the path of least resistance works regarding outdated beliefs, it also points to the self-sabotaging potential of stress. Dubbed the Epidemic of the 21st Century, stress is a major saboteur of healthy neural plasticity. In its true-to-form plastic nature, the brain changes into what its most influenced by. Consequently, because of the predominance of chronic stress, the analytical brain is highly influenced by the emotional brain. The repetition and emotional intensity of the stress response easily overrides feeble attempts at positivity instead, the analytical brain changes in structure to match the stress. Norman Doidge refers to this phenomenon:
Neuroplasticity has the power to produce more flexible but also more rigid behaviorsa phenomenon I call the plastic paradox. Ironically, some of our most stubborn habits and disorders are products of our plasticity. Once a particular plastic change occurs in the brain and becomes well established, it can prevent other changes from occurring. Its by understanding both the positive and negative effects of plasticity that we can truly understand the extent of human possibilities.
Some of the mind body practices we use include meditation, somatic therapy, and Brainspotting therapy.
Feel genuinely and emotionally connected to your intention to be happy with feelings of hope, trust, and positivity.
Repetition and Practice
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The Human Brain As A Special Brain
What makes us human? Is our brain, the only one known to study other brains, special in any way? According to a recent popular account of what makes us unique, we have brains that are bigger than expected for an ape, we have a neocortex that is three times bigger than predicted for our body size, we have some areas of the neocortex and the cerebellum that are larger than expected, we have more white matter and the list goes on . Most specialists seem to agree . Since ours is obviously not the largest brain on Earth, our superior cognitive abilities cannot be accounted for by something as simple as brain size, the most readily measurable parameter regarding the brain. Emphasis is thus placed on an exceptionality that is, curiously, not brain-centered, but rather body-centered: With a smaller body but a larger brain than great apes, the human species deviates from the relationship between body and brain size that applies to other primates, great apes included, boasting a brain that is 57× too large for its body size . Recent efforts to support this uniqueness have focused on finding genetic differences between humans and other primates , as well as cellular particularities such as the presence and distribution of Von Economo neurons .
Cerebral Cortex Expansion Gyrification And Connectivity
Even if expanding without gaining relatively more of the total number of brain neurons, the mammalian cerebral cortex does vary in size over five orders of magnitude, albeit as different functions of its number of neurons across mammalian orders . Cortical expansion is commonly envisioned as occurring laterally, through the increase of the number of progenitor cells in the subventricular zone and the consequent addition of radial columns containing a constant number of neurons across species . A number of models of cortical expansion in evolution assume such a uniform distribution of neurons across species, based on the initial findings of Rockel et al. of a constant number of 147,000 neurons beneath 1 mm2 of cortical surface of various mammalian species. A second common assumption in evolutionary models of cortical expansion is that a constant fraction of cortical neurons sends axons into the white matter, that is, cortical connectivity does not scale with brain size , although some models predict a decrease in cortical connectivity through the white matter in larger cortices .
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What Are Neural Pathways
Neural pathways are the connections that form between the neurons in your brain. And you can think of them as a pattern that represents any thought about anything youve ever had as simple as an apple, as complicated as love and integrity, every thought is a neural pathway.
Now, were often taught to think of our brains as computers, a storeroom with boxes or ROM that your brain can fetch when you need it. But thats not accurate. Your thoughts are more like patterns than boxes. Neural pathways are the connections between neurons that light up when you think of something for the first time, and the connections form a pattern in your brain. Your brain has now attached meaning to that specific pattern.
And the next time you think of that same thing, the same pattern lights up again, the same neural pathway. So neural pathways are how our brains store our thoughts.