Brain Talk - Part 1

Erroll Lewis  |  1/16/2014 2:35:21 AM

brain illustration

Once I was enrolled in college, one very interesting subject was early childhood development. I seem to be immediately drawn to the teachings of the mind (brain) and its developmental process. Learning about the cognitive development and the study of the brain intrigued me and sparked my interest greatly. Now, I am afforded the opportunity to teach about the infant’s brain development, and like me, many others (parents) find the subject fascinating and are curious to learn as much as possible about their child’s brain.

Over the last decade, research has increased tremendously on early brain development. With the surge in technology, this new frontier of technological research uses terms such as neuroimaging or magnetic resonance, which captures the experiences of the brain. Due to work I have experienced during most of my career, studying and learning about the effects of abuse and neglect has also been interesting. What I have learned from research based data and share with others is that the experiences during the early years of the child is not just mental - the effects can similarly impact the child emotionally and behaviorally throughout his or her life. Although there is much research which differs on whether genetics or the environment determine significant development of our outlook on life, it's clear those positive or negative experiences that shape our future started early on.

Understanding the development of the infant brain is vital and important to the mother and to the entire family. Parents who attend parenting education classes learn about the child’s early development and are encouraged to stimulate the child’s interest with as many experiences as possible.

Some brain enhancement experiences include:

  • Reading at appropriate times such as before bedtime.
  • Parent/child quality time with any activity.
  • Touching various parts of the body, especially the face.
  • Making eye contact with demonstrations of facial expressions.
  • Verbal communication as often as possible.

Starting this process early on will enhance all the child’s developmental domains. This mother child stimulation assists nurturing the child and causes the brain (neurons and synapse) to respond positively and productively to the experiences of the infant or child.

Such practices as reading, singing and playing with the child are noteworthy experiences that help with the growth and development of the child. All these occurrences help brain systems and brain development.

This is the first of three blogs emphasizing the importance, basics and essentials of the brain. It is the hope that this information will teach and benefit the reader with not just the understanding and fundamentals of the brain but will also motivate parents to begin a relationship with their child that will be one of emotional development and guide the child’s temperament and socialization skills from his/her earliest experiences.

Brain Basics

  • Much of the brain develops before the child is born.
  • The brain continues to develop after the birth.
  • Brain cells are called neurons.
  • Neurons – brain cells communicate through synapse.
  • Synapse and dendrites are important messengers of the brain.
  • Brain cells that fail to connect are pruned.
  • Pruning occurs to rid unused cells to create new brain cells.
  • The brain has a need to form relationships for healthy development.
  • Brain content is divided into four parts.

Brain Needs

  • Blood – carries the brain's source of energy.
  • Oxygen – causes a higher level of functioning.
  • Sleep – helps the brain process, learn and develop physical renewal.
  • Nutrition – provides essential nutrients (breast milk is best source).
  • Hydration – needs 8 to 12 glasses of water a day.
  • Stimulation – active expressions, sounds, colors, repetitions, music, reading, movement.

References:
Healthy Beginnings Parenting Program, LSU AgCenter & SU Ag Center
Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Developmentwww.childwelfare.gov  

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