There is a four-year period of "potential" growth, which is the most critical period of human development.
Information is integrated within the cell body, which, in turn, sends out "action potentials" (the electrochemical signals). When an electrochemical signal reaches the dendrite, several things may happen (see inset above).
By the 17th week of pregnancy, the fetus already has 1 billion brain cells, more than the adult brain.
Within each brain area are millions of neurons (nerve cells) that are connected to each other by synapses.
Early experiences, both positive and negative, have a dramatic effect on this formation of synapses. It is from early infancy to early childhood that these vital connections are made permanent. Touch, talking, and things an infant sees and smells all build connections if done with continuity in a loving, consistent, and predictable manner. Children raised in environmentally deprived facilities (such as the Romanian orphanages) experience fewer sounds, colors, pictures, interactions and sights. Studies done on over 1,000 abused and neglected children found that children who were rarely touched or spoken to and who had little opportunity to explore and experiment with toys, had brains that were 20-30% smaller than most children their age. Other studies have found that childhood trauma, such as being repeatedly abused or witnessing a murder, can directly affect the way the brain functions.

One of the most fundamental tasks an infant undertakes is determining whether and how he can get his needs met in the world in which he lives. If, however, his needs are met only sporadically and his pleas for comfort are usually ignored or met with harsh words and rough handling, the infant will focus his energies on ensuring that his needs are met. The video, Ten Things Every Child Needs, discusses the ten things an infant needs in order to help the brain grow. Interactions with people and objects are as necessary to the baby as protein, fat and vitamins. In other words, a loving, consistent relationship can offset even the most stressful situation. Gunnar's research on neural plasticity has demonstrated that experience shapes the developing brain.
Infants in secure attachment relationships show more evidence of maternal buffering of the adrenocortical system than do so insecurely attached infants. We are all familiar with this topic (there are other pages on this website describing this).
A high fat diet facilitates the absorption of lead, so it is important to provide healthy meals for all children in our care. Childcare aimed at learning about others, about oneself, and learning how to control and use one's environment is invaluable. The Carnegie Report of 1995 estimated that forty percent of all infants and toddlers are in care that is actually destructive to them.

It has been found that children who do best on tests are those whose parents play with them. There is a strong correlation between the amount of sleep a child gets and normal brain development.
At no time will this Website intentionally contain copyrighted material without the advance permission of the Copyright holder. Spitz did studies in the 1940's and found that infants need a loving, trusting adult to act as the interpreter of life experiences, otherwise they have no meaning. High cortisol levels in preschool children coincide with poor "effort control" and self-regulatory competencies.
Brazelton has said that he can recognize by eight months which kids expect themselves to succeed and which do not. A sense of control and predictability are key factors in modulating cortisol responses to potentially threatening and painful events.

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