prepared by: Stacy-Ann, Graduate Student
Our brains are critical to us. From development within utero, to acquisition of learning from birth throughout the lifetime, to healing upon injury, and to development of attachment.
In order for a brain to function correctly it must be constructed in an ongoing process beginning before birth and continuing throughout our adult life. The early experiences we encounter impact the quality of the brain’s architecture by establishing either a durably built or a crumbling foundation for all of our learning, behaviour and health that follow in later life. Therefore, the basic architecture of the brain is continuously constructed from before birth and continues throughout adulthood.
The physical architecture of the developing brain is also influenced by the experiences that we have in our first years of life. Since the brain develops in stages, the more simplistic structures are laid down before the more complex ones, as a result, it is crucial to get it right during the early years, hence, “the years before five last the rest of your life”. Additionally, our brain plays a crucial role in determining our physical and mental wellbeing. It helps to promote our ability to maintain healthy relationships, as well as our capability to be productive, and achieve our best outcomes.
“The quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life– positive or negative– helps shape how their brain develops” (First Things First, 2020).
Moreover, in early development, the brain is especially sensitive to experiences and environments. It responds by producing proteins when neurons receive signals from external experiences. Therefore, in neural cells, these proteins are deposited in the nucleus, where they magnetize or resist enzymes capable of attaching them to genes. As a result, the chemistry that encodes genes in brain cells can change under both positive and negative influences.
With positive experiences, like learning rich content, and negative influences, such as a toxic environment and nutritional problems, can affect the chemistry in a temporary or permanent way. Consequently, epigenetic changes that occur early in life can leave a lasting impact on individuals physical and mental health.
Strategies for optimizing brain development:
- Healthy eating, and exercise
- Limited stress
- Meditation or Mindfulness
- Taking supplements like Omega-3
- Memory or learning games
- Routine or schedule
- Creativity and engaging in the arts
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Brain Story Certification is an online resource equipping learners on understanding the brain and development.
Reference: No Author (2022). Brain Development. Arizona: First Things First. Taken from: Website
The Child Trauma Academy provides helpful resources for parenting and supporting your child’s development throughout the life span.
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