Infant Brain Development


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Infant Brain Development

  1. 1. Infant Brain Development The Unfinished Brain
  2. 2. The Infinite Array <ul><li>The brain and nervous system contain billions of interconnected neurons. </li></ul><ul><li>Neurons form trillions of connections and the pathways. </li></ul><ul><li>The number and organization of these connections influence everything, from the ability to recognize letters to the maintenance of relationships. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Making Connections <ul><li>Neurons develop rapidly before birth. </li></ul><ul><li>At birth, infants have all, or most, of the brain cells they will ever have. </li></ul><ul><li>Connections or &quot;wiring&quot; between these cells is incomplete - connections have to be built. </li></ul><ul><li>Between birth and 8 months synapses form rapidly. </li></ul><ul><li>One neuron can connect with 15,000 other neurons. </li></ul><ul><li>In the first 3 months of life, the synapses multiply more than 20 times.  </li></ul><ul><li>At 3 months, the baby has more than 1,000 trillion synapses. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Brain Plasticity in Early Childhood <ul><li>Connections are made permanent from early infancy to early childhood </li></ul><ul><li>As we mature, the brain physically changes due to outside experiences. </li></ul><ul><li>The first three years see the most rapid changes due to the bombardment of experience (everything is new!). </li></ul><ul><li>At this time, the brain is most flexible and prepared to learn. (plasticity) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Pruning <ul><li>Connections that are not used are removed by &quot; pruning &quot; </li></ul><ul><li>After the first birthday, pruning occurs more quickly. </li></ul><ul><li>A 3-year-old child has twice as many connections as an adult.  </li></ul><ul><li>By 10 years, a child has nearly 500 trillion synapses, which is the same as the average adult. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Experience Builds Connections <ul><li>Early childhood experiences physically determine how the brain is &quot;wired.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Early sensory experiences create new synapses. </li></ul><ul><li>Repetition of experiences strengthen them. </li></ul><ul><li>The number of connections can go up or down by 25 % or more, depending on the enrichment of the environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Those synapses that aren't used are pruned. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Window of Opportunity <ul><li>At about age 10, the brain begins to dramatically prune extra connections and make order of the tangled circuitry of the brain. </li></ul><ul><li>Pruning occurs for about 12 years but the brain maintains flexibility for future learning </li></ul><ul><li>New synapses grow throughout life </li></ul><ul><li>Adults continue to learn, but they do not master new skills so quickly </li></ul><ul><li>Learning language is an example of this principle. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Language Acquisition <ul><li>At 3 months the brain has the potential to distinguish several hundred spoken sounds. </li></ul><ul><li>Over the next few months the brain organizes itself to recognize only the sounds it hears. </li></ul><ul><li>During early childhood the brain retains plasticity for this information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The ability to discriminate sounds it has discarded </li></ul></ul><ul><li>After age ten, this plasticity is lost </li></ul><ul><li>This is why young children can easily learn foreign languages accent-free. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Older children & adults can still learn language, but more effort is required. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Genetics & Environment Interact <ul><li>There is mounting evidence that early experiences can dramatically alter the way genes are expressed in the developing brain. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Sensory Stimulation <ul><li>Touch, sound, sight, taste, smell, all build connections . </li></ul><ul><li>Some researchers, believe &quot;the number of words an infant hears each day is the single most important predictor of later intelligence, school success, and social competence.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Touch also is key to brain development </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research on infant massage suggests that in preemies, massage causes faster growth and development. </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Security <ul><li>The most fundamental task of an infant is to learn how to meet his needs </li></ul><ul><li>If adults respond predictably to his cries and provide for his needs, the infant feels secure. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>He then focuses his attention on exploring, allowing his brain to develop. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If his needs are met only sporadically, the infant will focus his energies on meeting his needs. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>He will have more and more difficulty interacting with people and objects in his environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>His brain will shut out the stimulation it needs to develop healthy cognitive and social skills. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Deprivation <ul><li>Infants in environmentally deprived facilities have brains smaller than those of children who grow up in sensually rich environments </li></ul><ul><li>Studies of over 1,000 abused and neglected children found that children who were rarely touched or spoken to had brains 20-30% smaller than most children their age. </li></ul><ul><li>In some cases the brains of children from deprived environments resemble the brains of Alzheimer's patients. </li></ul><ul><li>Animals raised in zoos have brains that are 20-30% smaller than animals raised in the wild. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Trauma <ul><li>Childhood trauma can directly affect the way the brain functions. </li></ul><ul><li>Traumatized children continue to show physical symptoms of fear even in the absence of threatening stimuli </li></ul><ul><ul><li>have high resting heart rates, high levels of stress hormones in their blood, and problems sleeping suggests that their brains are in a permanent state of &quot;high alert&quot;. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These children tend to develop emotional, behavioral and learning problems. </li></ul>
  14. 14. The Role of Cortisol <ul><li>Studies examined the effect of the stress hormone, cortisol, on brain development. </li></ul><ul><li>Amount of cortisol in the body can be measured in the saliva allowing testing on infants & children. </li></ul><ul><li>If levels of cortisol are high, the heart rate, digestive system and ability to think are affected. </li></ul><ul><li>At birth, the human adrenocortical system is highly responsive to stimulation. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Cortisol & Brain Development <ul><li>The brain is the major target of cortisol. </li></ul><ul><li>Frequent and prolonged exposure to elevated cortisol may affect the development of brain areas involved in memory, negative emotions, and attention regulation. </li></ul><ul><li>High cortisol levels in preschool children coincide with poor &quot;effort control&quot; and self-regulatory competencies. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Learning to Cope With Stress <ul><li>Research on neural plasticity demonstrates that experience shapes the developing brain </li></ul><ul><li>Early experiences affect later emotional, behavioral and hormonal stress reactivity. </li></ul><ul><li>This is accomplished by preventing elevations in cortisol in reaction to threatening and mildly painful events. </li></ul><ul><li>A sense of control is the key factor in modulating cortisol response to potentially threatening o painful events. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The presence of a trusted caregiver during stress reduces the production of cortisol. </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Sleep <ul><li>There is a strong correlation between the amount of sleep a child gets and normal brain development. </li></ul><ul><li>The brain needs a period of deep, uninterrupted, physiological rest </li></ul><ul><li>Children between birth and age twelve who do not receive enough sleep do poorly on extended performance testing, creativity and higher-level problem solving. </li></ul><ul><li>May also relate to cortisol levels </li></ul>
  18. 18. The Basis of Learning <ul><li>The past decade has seen a massive amount of research on infant brain development & learning </li></ul><ul><li>Babies know more than we once thought </li></ul>
  19. 19. A Summary of Infant Skills <ul><li>2-day-old infants recognize their mother's voice and prefer it over other sounds. </li></ul><ul><li>3-month-olds can discriminate primary colors, & prefer red & yellow over blue & green. </li></ul><ul><li>6-month-olds recognize a mobile 2 weeks after being exposed to it for 2, 15-min. intervals. </li></ul><ul><li>7-month-olds can match angry or happy facial expressions with the corresponding vocal expression. </li></ul><ul><li>9-month-olds will imitate simple actions which they see being performed on objects, one week later. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Formation of Memory <ul><li>Two types of memory: (Restak) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Wide sense&quot; memory with acquired knowledge. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>does not associate time or place </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Strict sense” memory </li></ul><ul><ul><li>capable of association with time or place </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Wide Sense Memory <ul><li>‘ Wide sense' memory seems to be present from birth. </li></ul><ul><li>Infant can learn, modify reactions, and exhibit surprise when something new occurs </li></ul><ul><li>We just “know” something </li></ul><ul><li>Might appear to be innate </li></ul><ul><li>Located in part of the brain that develops early. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Conditioned Learning <ul><li>Newborns can be ‘taught’ via conditioning </li></ul><ul><li>operant conditioning is one type of associative learning in which there is a contingency between the response and the reinforcer. </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Place a pair of earphones on a newborn baby and that baby will soon learn to suck in a pattern so as to hear her mother's voice over the earphones . . .” </li></ul>
  23. 23. True Memory <ul><li>Memory in the &quot;strict sense&quot; comes into being with the development of higher levels of the brain. </li></ul><ul><li>The amygdala and frontal lobes are important in memory </li></ul><ul><li>They develop relatively late in infancy, at about ten months of age. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Memory & Learning <ul><li>Sound perception develops first and fastest </li></ul><ul><li>Researchsearch by Jusczyk et al. at Johns Hopkins investigated infants' long-term memory for the sound patterns of words. </li></ul><ul><li>This study shows that infants have a previously unknown type of unconscious memory for detailed sound patterns </li></ul><ul><li>Even if infants don't understand what they hear, &quot;their nervous system is paying attention.&quot; </li></ul>
  25. 25. The Research <ul><li>Researchers studied 8-month-old infants over the course of 10 visits in 2 weeks. </li></ul><ul><li>They played them a half-hour audio tape of children's stories. </li></ul><ul><li>Two weeks after the last visit, the infants were brought to the lab. </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers read them lists of words, some of which came from the stories </li></ul><ul><li>Mixed in were foils that sounded similar but had not been mentioned in the stories. </li></ul><ul><li>Story words kept the infants' attention about 15% longer than the foils, an indication that the infants remembered the story words. </li></ul><ul><li>A control group of infants that had never heard the stories paid equal attention to words of either list. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Learning Language is Incremental <ul><li>The same researchers found that infants first learn to distinguish sound patterns of their native languages. </li></ul><ul><li>This ability develops faster than any other aspect of language. </li></ul><ul><li>Infants listened longer to their own names than to any other name, even the ones with similar sound patterns. </li></ul><ul><li>CNN Interactive: </li></ul>
  27. 27. Infant Brain Makes Sense of Language <ul><li>A French study found that 3-month-old babies respond to spoken sentences </li></ul><ul><li>Used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) visualize infants' reactions to speech. </li></ul><ul><li>Measured brain activity as they spoke &quot;sense&quot; and &quot;nonsense&quot; to the 2- and 3-month-olds. </li></ul><ul><li>The “sense” consisted of short French sentences; the nonsense of the same sentences, recorded and played back in reverse. </li></ul><ul><li>Earlier studies found infants just 4 days old could distinguish between their native language and a foreign language. </li></ul>
  28. 28. The Language Spurt <ul><li>At about 18 months there is a sudden dramatic increase in word use </li></ul><ul><li>Vocabulary increases to about 100 words and quickly expands </li></ul><ul><li>This change, called the naming explosion or vocabulary spurt, is a key stage in development </li></ul><ul><li>Traditionally explained as the result of progressions in conceptual development </li></ul><ul><li>Woodward et al at the University of Chicago investigated this phenomenon </li></ul><ul><li>Showed that children comprehend words equally well at 13 months, when they use just five to ten words </li></ul>
  29. 29. The Research <ul><li>They exposed 13- and 18-month-old infants to unfamiliar objects like a big plastic paper clip and a plastic strainer </li></ul><ul><li>Called one of them by a made-up name, toma. </li></ul><ul><li>One person repeated the word nine times in different situations </li></ul><ul><li>Another person, unaware which object was the toma tested the child's comprehension through a play activity </li></ul><ul><li>Presented two objects on a tray and asked the child to 'put the toma in the box.‘ </li></ul><ul><li>Found little difference in rates of word learning and retention between the two groups of infants . </li></ul>
  30. 30. Categorizing <ul><li>Babies can also categorize words </li></ul><ul><li>A study from Johns Hopkins: </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;New findings suggest that infants as young as 9 months use words to begin shaping their view of the world, arranging objects into mental categories, in a process previously associated more with preschoolers than with mere babes.&quot; </li></ul>
  31. 31. Development of Reasoning Skills <ul><li>Babies know more than we believe </li></ul><ul><li>Children begin to develop reasoning skills as young as seven months of age. </li></ul><ul><li>Study conducted at the University of Chicago on seven-month-old babies to assess their reasoning skills </li></ul><ul><li>Used visual habituation to determine infant understanding of the actions of inanimate objects. </li></ul><ul><li>Measured their attention span to different events. </li></ul>
  32. 32. The Research Study <ul><li>The longer a baby watches, the more likely he is trying to understand something unexpected </li></ul><ul><li>The first test - babies watch a videotape of an object that moves behind a screen blocking the babies' view of the action. </li></ul><ul><li>Another object moves off the screen after the first object enters. </li></ul><ul><li>The second test - the screen is removed to show the two objects colliding or not colliding before the second object moves. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Results <ul><li>Babies watch longer when objects don’t collide </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers concluded that they are surprised because it violates a principle they have learned: for objects to cause other objects to move, they must touch each other. </li></ul><ul><li>If babies are surprised when humans move without touching, that would indicate that they expect humans and objects to react to each other in the same way. </li></ul><ul><li>The findings support the conclusion that by seven months, infants differentiate between people and objects in their reasoning about simple causal sequences </li></ul>