How to Measure Early Brain Development in Babies ?
Created by Urvashi Shah Updated on May 15, 2019
Childhood is a time of tremendous development in a child’s life. This period also marks a remarkable development of the child’s brain, thus, allowing him/her to learn, grow and even adapt to the changes of the surroundings. The young brain changes in shape and size, in response to everything they encounter from their new environment, such as life experiences, their relationships and so on.
A human brain consists of millions of brain cells, called neurons. An adult brain consists of 100 billions of them, a child is born with even more. A baby’s brain contains a lot more cells and circuits that they will eventually need. Starting from before birth and during the first year of a baby’s life, these overproduced brain cells rapidly develop trillions of connections (synapses) among themselves. This network of synaptic connections will ultimately determine how a child thinks and acts.
Early Brain Development in Child
Not all of the neurons and synapses will remain as a child grows. Life experience will activate certain neurons, create new connections among them and strengthen existing connections (myelination). Unused connections will eventually be eliminated (synaptic pruning). Building massive connections, creating and strengthening them through life experiences and pruning unused ones is a remarkable characteristic of the human brain. This process allows babies to adapt flexibly to any environment they’re born into without the constraint of too many hardwired connections.
Age-wise Newborn Baby Brain Development
Brain Development During First Trimester
The development of the brain begins in the first few weeks after conception. Most structural features of the brain appear during the embryonic period, which continues to grow and develop during the fetal period. The first key event of brain development is the formation of the neural tube. About two weeks after conception, the neural plate, a layer of specialized cells in the embryo, begins to slowly fold over onto itself, eventually forming a tube-shaped structure. The tube gradually closes as the edges of the plate fuse together; this process is usually complete by four weeks after conception. The neural tube continues to change, eventually becoming the brain and spinal cord. These early neural connections allow the fetus to make its first movements, which can be detected by ultrasound and MRI even though in most cases the mother cannot feel them.
Brain Development During the Second Trimester
Early in the second trimester, gyri and sulci begin to appear on the brain’s surface; by the end of this trimester, this process is almost complete. The cerebral cortex is growing in thickness and complexity and synapse formation in this area is beginning. Myelin begins to appear on the axons of some neurons during the second trimester. This process is called myelination, which continues throughout adolescence. Myelination allows for faster processing of information for the brain to achieve the same level of efficiency without myelination, the spinal cord would have to be three yards in diameter.
Brain Development During the Third trimester
The early weeks of the third trimester are a transitional period during which the cerebral cortex begins to assume many duties formerly carried out by the more primitive brainstem. For example, reflexes such as foetal breathing and responses to external stimuli become more regular. The cerebral cortex also supports early learning which develops around this time.
Brain Development in 1st Years
Newborns can now recognize human faces and are also able to discriminate between happy and sad expressions. At birth, a baby knows his/her mother’s voice and may be able to recognize the sounds of stories his/her mother read to him/her while he/she was still in the womb. The brain continues to develop at an amazing pace during the first year, leading to the rapid development of motor skills. The visual areas of the cortex develop, which gives the infant a complete binocular vision. Language circuits in the frontal and temporal lobes fuse in the first year, influenced strongly by the language an infant hears. For the first few months, a baby in an English-speaking home can distinguish between the sounds of a foreign language. He/she loses this ability by the end of her first year.
Brain Development in Second Year
As more and more synapses are interconnecting during the second year of a child’s life, more of language areas are beginning to develop. A child’s vocabulary will start developing at an immense pace between his/her first and second birthday. During the second year, there is a rapid increase in the rate of myelination, which helps the brain perform more complex tasks. Higher-order cognitive abilities like self-awareness are developing and the infant is now more aware of his/her own emotions and intentions. When he/she sees his/her reflection in a mirror, he/she now fully recognizes that it is his/her own. Soon he/she will begin using his/her own name as well as personal pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘me’.
Brain Development in Third Year
Complex cognitive abilities begin to improve. A child is better able to use the past to interpret present events. They also have more understanding of cause and effect and also have more cognitive flexibility.
This is how you can measure your toddler’s brain development on the basis of new skills he/she learns with time.
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Happy Parenting !