Brain Development

Brain Development

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The human brain is a very complicated and delicate machine that researchers and scientific-minded individuals have spent the better part of human history trying to figure out. Even with modern research, there is still so much about the brain that we don’t know. In this article, we will go over some of the things we do know, such as regular brain development and the stages of brain development. 

When does the Brain Start Developing

It’s amazing how much happens when fetuses develop inside of the mother’s womb. It truly is one of nature’s most amazing accomplishments. Brain development begins with the formation and closure of the neural tube, the earliest nervous tissue that looks like a fat earthworm stretched out along the entire back of the embryo (1). 

In the brain development timeline, the neural tube forms from the neural plate, which starts to form only two weeks after conception. At the 18 day mark, the plate lengthens and starts folding up, forming a groove that begins fusing shut into a tube around the 22-day mark. The tube will be fully closed and transforming into the brain and spinal cord of the embryo by the 27-day mark. 

What are the Stages of Brain Development?

The amazing thing about the brain is that it isn’t done developing in the fetus. On the contrary. Our brains will continue to develop throughout the entirety of our lives. In fact, most researchers believe that the human brain isn’t fully developed until we are in our mid-to-late 20s. Of course, the timeline will differ from person to person, but the timeline is roughly the same unless someone is suffering from a medical disorder. Researchers believe that there are five development stages, here are those stages:

  • Stage 1: 0 to 10 months - Neurons and connections are growing in this stage. Pregnant women should try to stay as stress-free as possible, as stress along with toxins, cigarettes, heavy metals, alcohol, and drugs can greatly stunt brain growth
  • Stage 2: birth to six years - During this stage, the brain experiences development of voluntary movement, reasoning, perception, frontal lobes active in the development of emotions, attachments, planning, working memory, and perception. It’s also when humans begin to develop a sense of self. The brain will be 95% of its adult weight and peak energy consumption by the age of six. During this early stage, negative or harsh treatment may come with emotional consequences in the future
  • Stage 3: 7 to 22 years - The neural connections or ‘grey’ matter is still pruning, wiring of the brain still in progress, the fatty tissues surrounding neurons or ‘white’ matter increase and assist with speeding up electrical impulses and stabilize connections. The prefrontal cortex is the last to mature and it involves the control of impulses and decision-making. This means that teenagers will have to learn how to control reckless, irrational behavior 
  • Stage 4: 23 to 65 years - The brain reaches its peak power around the age of 22, a peak that will last for five more years. A downhill pattern will begin after this peak. You can elongate this peak by taking proper care of your overall health
  • Stage 5: older than 65 years - At this point, the human brain begins to lose brain cells in the critical areas such as the hippocampus, which stores memories. Learning new skills can help you improve your concentration and memory

As we have already briefly touched on, this isn’t an exact timeline. Some people will develop quicker than others, while some will develop slower. 

What is Brain Development in Early Childhood?

When it comes to early childhood brain development, the environment surrounding the child will play a large factor in how the brain develops. In fact, researchers know that there is a ‘serve and return’ relationship between children and their parents and other caregivers in the family or community. Young children naturally reach out for interaction through babbling, facial expressions, and gestures, and adults respond with the same kind of vocalizing and gesturing back at them (2). 

If children don’t get these responses from adults, or they get inappropriate responses, the brain’s architecture will not form as expected. This can lead to disparities in learning and behavior. These learning disparities can be remedied over time but it may be difficult. The interactions children have in the early brain development stage will go a long way in shaping up their behavior as they age. 

What are the Most Important Years for Brain Development?

Research and results vary when it comes to this topic. Some researchers believe that the early stages are the most important for brain development while others believe the teenage years are the most important. However, recent studies have led us to believe that birth to age three is the most important brain development age. Here are some things parents can do during this time to help the development of their child’s brain:

  • Be warm, loving, and responsive
  • Talk, read, and sing to your child
  • Establish routines and rituals
  • Encourage play
  • Make TV watching selective
  • Use discipline as an opportunity to teach
  • Accept that each child is unique
  • Choose quality child care

Being a loving, caring, and attentive parent will go a long way in positive brain development.

What Happens to the Brain During the Teenage years?

The teenage years mark a time of significant growth and development both inside a teenager’s brain and their bodies. The main change is that unused connections in the thinking and processing part of your child’s brain known as grey matter are pruned away. Other connections are strengthened. Think of this as your brain’s way of becoming as efficient as possible, losing the parts it doesn’t use, and strengthening the parts it does. 

As a parent, it’s important to emphasize the importance of smart decision-making and rational thinking to your teenager during this stage. That’s because the teenage brain is built to seek out new experiences, risks, and sensations. This can be dangerous as teenagers don’t always have a lot of self-control or good judgment. They also have a difficult time processing what the consequences of their actions may be. You can support your child by helping them choose healthy risks, such as sports and travel. 

Do Women’s Brains Develop Faster than Men’s?

There has always been a stigma that the women’s brain will develop quicker than the male brain, but now there is legitimate research that points to this being true. Recent studies have found that the girl’s brain goes through the reorganization and pruning process much earlier than boys. These studies found that some brain fibers that bridged far-flung regions of the brain tended to remain stable, while shorter connections, many of which were redundant, were edited away. And the entire reorganization seemed to occur sooner in girls’ brains than in boys’ brains.

Females also tended to have more connections across the two hemispheres of the brain. Researchers believe that the earlier reorganization in girls makes the brain work more efficiently, and therefore reach a more mature state for processing the environment. What drives the gender-based difference in timing isn’t clear, but the results suggest that may be a question worth investigating.

When is the Brain Considered Mature?

It takes a while for your brain, more specifically, the prefrontal cortex, to mature. This is the part of the brain that helps curb impulsive behavior. Recent research has led us to believe that the brain doesn’t fully mature until the age of 25. 

Supplements For The Brain

One supplement that can help encourage positive brain growth and prevent cognitive dissonance, as well as other aging side-effects, is spermidine. This is because spermidine helps induce something called autophagy. This is the body’s process of replacing old and potentially damaged cell parts with newer, healthier ones. Autophagy literally means ‘self-eat.’

This process helps keep you feeling and looking young while also dramatically lowering your chances of developing aging diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. While it is possible to get your recommended daily intake of spermidine through your diet, it’s recommended to take supplements so you ensure you get the right dose. Simply taking your supplements with your dinner is a great way to remember to take spermidine supplements every night.

 

Resources:

  1. Zero to Three, When does brain development begin?
  2. Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, The Science of Early Childhood Development