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BRAIN DEVELOPMENT Smart Start Powered By Docstoc
					Nurturing the Developing Brain in
        Early Childhood

                 Lisa Freund, Ph.D.

        The National Institutes of Health
                  The Eunice Kennedy Shriver
  National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

                      Bethesda, Maryland
The Brain is Still a Mystery
Brain Growth

    AGE                  BRAIN WEIGHT

    20 WEEKS GESTATION        100
    BIRTH                     400
    18 MONTHS                 800
    3 YEARS OLD              1100
    ADULT                 1300 - 1400
The Neuron
                Brain Growth
n At birth, most neurons the brain will have
  are present
   u approx. 100 billion neurons

n By age 2 years, brain is 80% of adult size
n What keeps growing?
   u Other brain cells (glia)

   u New neuron connections

      t approx. 1000 trillion connections by
        age 3 yrs.
How Does the Developing Brain
Become Aware, Learn, Think,?
n Overproduction of neurons and connections
  among neurons
n Selective reduction of neurons and
  connections among neurons
n Waves of intense branching and connecting
  followed by reduction in neurons
   u Before birth through 3-years-old

   u Again at 11- or 12-years-old
     13-YEAR-OLD BOY
                 Major Areas of the Brain

Self-regulation,                                Sensory motor perception,    Hearing, language,
problem solving, goal   Vision and perception   spatial abilities            memory, social -
setting, social                                                             emotional function
Cortical thickness development from birth to 54 mos
                                               6 mm

                                               4.5 mm

                                               3 mm

                                               1.5 mm

                                               1 mm

Right lateral and top views of gray matter
  maturation over the cortical surface.
Right View of Gray Matter Maturation
Over Brain Surface between Ages 4 to 21
    How Brain Areas are Developing
n   Anatomical studies of brain development show
    u Occipital lobes show earliest pruning

    u Frontal and Temporal lobes show growth of
      neural connections longer than other areas of the
      brain…through 3 years old
    u Frontal and Temporal lobes show pruning of
      connections longer than other areas of the brain
       t Greatest change between 2 years and 5 years
  Synaptic production and pruning
correspond with overall brain activity

Young children’s brains work harder and
     less efficiently than adults’

n   Speed of connection
n   Begins at birth, rapidly increases to 2-years old
n   Continues to increase more slowly through 30-

Young children’s brains have fewer neuron connections
            and work slower than adults’
    How Brain Function is Developing
n   Brain areas with longest periods of organization related
     u self-regulation,

     u problem-solving,

     u language/communication

     u Social bonding

n   Most vigorous growth, pruning, connecting, and activity
    occurs between 1-1/2 years through 3 or 4 years old

n   Neuroscience is telling us that this may be one of the most
    important periods for developing self-regulation, problem-
    solving, social-emotional, and language/communication
         Nature and Nurture
n   Genes and environment interact throughout
    brain development
     u Genes form neurons, connections among

       major brain regions
     u Environment and experience refines the

       connections; enhancing some connections
       while eliminating others
    Experience Can Change the
    Actual Structure of the Brain

n Brain development is “activity-dependent”
n Every experience excites some neural
  circuits and leaves others alone
n Neural circuits used over and over
  strengthen, those that are not used are
  dropped resulting in “pruning”
Differences in brain activity (colored areas)
between a typical child reader and a child with
reading difficulties
Differences in brain activity in the same child
before and after specialized reading instruction
      Experience Can Change Brain

n   The brain is undergoing explosive growth in
    the first years of life and needs organizing
    experiences to facilitate development.

n   Learning results in more consolidation of
    neuronal activity—brain activity becomes
    more efficient
Neglect Impedes Brain Development

n Limited exposure to language, touch or
  social interactions
n Emotional or cognitive neglect
n Structural Changes
   u Lack of brain growth beyond effects of

     poor nutrition
   u Neuronal death beyond “pruning”
Brain activity of a normal 5-year-old child (left) and
a 5-year-old institutionalized Romanian orphan who
          was neglected in infancy (right).
What early experiences promote
healthy brain development?
n   Important areas of brain development are
    associated with…
    u   Self-control or Self-regulation
    u   Language/communication
    u   Learning
    u   Social emotional function

n   Research shows that everyday experiences with
    caregivers or other children can optimize the
    development in these areas
    Social Basis of Early Brain
n Early experiences create brain neuron
n Parent-child interactions are key
n And when are they most effective?
n Neuroscience and other research says
  between birth and 3 to 4-years old
n   Emotion Regulation
    u Capacity to identify feelings

    u Empathy

    u Management of strong emotions

n   Behavioral Inhibition
    u Delay gratification

    u Control impulses

n   Attention and Thinking Regulation (Executive
        t Directing attention

        t Mental representation

        t Planning

        t Focus on goal

        t Monitor actions; information

        t Correct actions

        t Identify and use strategies
u   Early parent-child interactions lay basis of
    self-regulation skills that become internalized
    by the child
     t Directing attention

     t Identifying goals

     t Monitoring Child’s actions

     t Correcting Child’s actions

     t Modeling strategies
    Parent-child Interaction with Infant or

n   Parent who supports optimal development
     u Is sensitive to child’s cues

     u Responds to child’s distress

     u Takes advantage of simple, everyday

       activities to stimulate learning
    Parent-child Interaction with Infant or

n   The child can influence interaction through
    u Clarity of his or her cues

    u Responsiveness to parent

    u Activity level
    Parent-child Interaction with 3- to 5-
n   With 3- to 5-year-old
    u Directing attention

    u Suggesting strategies

    u Monitoring, evaluating actions

    u Staying directed toward goal

    u Feedback is less directive
Reading Comprehension
    Research has Shown that Successful
      Scaffolding Results in Healthy
          Brains Ready to Learn
n Faster rates of language learning
n Increased task persistence
n Increased self-control
n More appropriate requests for help
n Increased self-monitoring during tasks
n Increased ability to learn
n Moderates risk factors
Implications for Early Education
We Know that….
n   Children show improved school achievement
    u With planned, intentional instruction in the

      preschool years.
    u When the literacy environment at home

      and in school can engage the child.
    u With consistent reading aloud

    u When preschool teachers receive high

      quality training.
We know that…
n   Just as parents who provide scaffolding
    promote healthy development, so can pre-
    school teachers provide scaffolding in the
Classroom Scaffolding
n   What types of teacher scaffolding can result in
    optimal outcomes for children?
     u Providing print and materials that foster their
       understanding of concepts
     u Responding to children’s requests and signals
       promptly and sensitively
     u Maintaining and expanding on children’s
       interests in meaningful learning activities
     u Providing children with choices and prompting
       children to make thoughtful decisions
    To Promote the Foundations for
n Phonological awareness --ability to notice
  and work with the sounds in language.
n How quickly children learn to read depends
  on how much phonological awareness has
  developed during toddler and preschool
To Promote Phonological Awareness
•   Teachers and Parents can…
    •   Chose books to read aloud that focus on
        sounds, rhyming, and alliteration
    •   Invite children to make up new verses of
        familiar words or songs by changing the
        beginning sounds of words
    •   Play games where children isolate the
        beginning sound in familiar words, and
        generate rhyming words
    Promote Knowledge of Letters
n   Research shows it is important for young children
    to be able to:
     u Recognize and name letters
     u Recognize beginning letters in familiar words
       (especially their own name)
     u Recognize both capital and lowercase letters
     u Relate some letters to the specific sounds they

    Teachers and parents can reinforce learning about
     letters by providing letters in a form children can
     touch, by playing games with letters, and by
     helping children write letters.
 Read Aloud To Promote Interest in
n Establish a pattern of reading aloud
  frequently to children.
n Ask children questions as you read.
n Encourage children to talk about the book.
n Read aloud many kinds of books.
n Reread aloud favorite books.
          Teachers and Parents
n   Research has shown
    u preschools that support the parent in

      promoting the child’s cognitive
      development and learning show greatest
      child achievement in elementary school
      and beyond

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