Early Brain Development and Learning

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It is not commonly known that the brain is 90% developed by age five. Most people believe that at age five children are just starting to learn. In fact, the brain absorbs more from birth to age five rather than from age five on. Parents and family can do many things to aid in the development of a baby’s brain, ultimately assisting in their learning. The sequence and rate at which the brain develops predicts the optimal times for a baby to learn. Sequence and rate is measured by milestones that a baby may reach by a certain age. Experiences are one thing that helps promote brain development. Our five senses give us these experiences. How in the first few years of life do we develop into the complex people we are today? We will look at how nature versus nurture; sensory perception; positive and negative experiences and both our social and physical environment contribute to and develop everything about whom we are as individuals.

The brain is influenced in many different ways. The most important factors in brain development start with genetics, nutrition, and responsiveness from parents, daily experiences, and physical interactions. Parents need to know that children are learning and accepting more information that a fully grown adult. Children need positive and sensitive feedback from family. In the past, scientist believed that the human brains development was determined by a biologically determined path (Brotherson, 2005). This means that the brain would develop genetically through family, but leading technology and science proved that the brain is not predetermined genetically by family. The brain matures through the five senses: smell, touch, vision, taste, and hearing. The experiences that the five senses bring are very crucial to help build the connections that guide brain development. The importance of the parents understanding of the first few years of his or her child’s life is extremely important. As Titzer, P.H.D, (2008) uses a computer metaphor to explain brain development he put it this way “Your baby’s brain could be thought of as a highly responsive, self-programming computer. For the first few years, the hardware is still coming together – a baby is not a finished product, but a growing, developing individual, complete with organic “circuitry” – the central nervous system” (p.6). The brain will absorb more with more stimulation.

At an earlier age stimulation for the brain circuitry is at its best. This will cause the brain circuitry to develop more effectively. The main function of the brain in the first three years of life is to create and support connections between neurons. The connections are referred to as synapses. Synapses could be envisioned as the limbs on the tree. Imagine a large family tree with its trunk as the original lineage. Then the main branches are the families as they grow and have children. Neurons are like the trunk and the main branches of the tree. The number of neurons a baby is born with remains constant in the first three years of life. Synapses (all those years of lineage on the family tree) are all the little twigs and branches that come off the main trunk. In the first three years of life our brains synapses increase to a number in the hundreds of trillions. However, after age three the number of synapses begins to slow until age 10. During this period there are more synapses created than needed. A person creates more synapses than needed and the “use it or lose it” theory applies to all the unused synapses.

The synapses being used the most, meaning the circuits that transfer information the most become permanent to the brain. The synapses not used are lost in a process called pruning. In fact, the ability to see light is lost if the eyes are not exposed to light within the first three weeks of life, hence “use it or lose it” theory (Hawley, 2003). This will happen because the synapses that can see light will be lost because they will not have been used. That...
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