"That dance begins at around the third week of gestation, when a thin layer of cells in the developing embryo performs an origami-like trick, folding inward to give rise to a fluid-filled cylinder known as the neural tube. As cells in the neural tube proliferate at the astonishing rate of 250,000 a minute, the brain and spinal cord assemble themselves in a series of tightly choreographed steps. Nature is the dominant partner during this phase of development, but nurture plays a vital supportive role."I remember when we went through our daughter's gestation, and the discussions around everything that can go wrong. But the realization comes, that possibly at least as profound, is the amount that goes right. Regarding the first interconnections made by neurons, reaching out with axioms and dendrites:
"What they didn't know until recently was that growth cones come equipped with the molecular equivalent of sonar and radar. Just as instruments in a submarine or airplane scan the environment for signals, so molecules arrayed on the surface of growth cones search their surroundings for the presence of certain proteins. Some of these proteins, it turns out, are attractants that pull the growth cones toward them, while others are repellents that push them away."At birth, the flood on sensory input is matched with an explosion of new connections being made.
"By the age of two, a child's brain contains twice as many synapses and consumes twice as much energy as the brain of a normal adult."Early abuse or deprivation can be devastating. The brain development process has a series of windows of opportunity. Some windows close permanently without sensory stimulation. Others close more slowly and allow for second chances. The balance of activity in synapse creation and atrophy appears to change abruptly around 10 years of age.
Although the article was published in February, I recall sitting in my parent's living room at Shuswap Lake, but the season is not clear to me. I had thought it was summer, but with the publishing date, I became less certain. My dad and I were talking about it. He used to bring stuff up like this and pass it along. Seems like I have adopted some of his nature.
Interestingly, there is a companion article on day care, what I like to refer to as the worst and possibly biggest social failure of our age. I don't remember this article so I was very interested to read it now, more than twenty years later.
FERTILE MINDS <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,985854,00.html> (Special Report)
FROM BIRTH, A BABY'S BRAIN CELLS PROLIFERATE WILDLY, MAKING CONNECTIONS THAT MAY SHAPE A LIFETIME OF EXPERIENCE. THE FIRST THREE YEARS ARE CRITICAL
THE DAY-CARE DILEMMA <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,985855,00.html> (Special Report)
TOO MANY CHILDREN TODAY LIVE IN CONDITIONS THAT THREATEN THEIR BRAIN DEVELOPMENT. WHAT CAN WE DO?