Some Notes on How the Brain Operates:
1. Scientists are just now realizing how experiences after birth, rather than something innate, determine the actual wiring of the human brain.
2. Early childhood experiences exert a dramatic and precise impact, physically determining how the intricate nerve circuits of the brain are wired.
3. Experience (active exploration, repetition) seems to exert its effects by strengthening synapses.
4. Today’s culture of overexposure to electronic media has shown to reinforce “wispy” connections in the brain, those synapses which only partially embed language. In fact, in 1950, the vocabulary of 14 year olds was measured at 25,000 words vs. 10,000 words for 14 year olds in 1999. Our culture has a way of over-stimulating itself and this is impacting the way our children’s brains are developing.
5. The formation of synapses and their pruning occurs at different times in different parts of the brain.
6. The downside of the brain’s great plasticity is that it is acutely vulnerable to trauma. Experience provides the organizing framework for the brain. If the brain’s organization reflects its experience, and the experience of the traumatized child is fear and stress, then the neurochemical response to fear and stress become the most powerful architects of the brain. (Fight or Flight syndrome can become a chronic condition.)
Every day new light is being shed on the complex interdependent workings of nurture and genetics in the formation of intellectual capacities and emotional stability.
In this section, we will bring you current research about how the brain develops and how we, as adults, can best support this growth for the benefit of our children.