A major factor in this process is the “serve and return” relationship between children and their parents or other caregivers.
Much like a game of tennis or volleyball, one person “serves” a word or action, and the other responds. This process means
that children need stable, caring, and stimulating relationships with the adults in their lives, in order to build strong brain
The body’s response to stress can also affect the brain’s architecture (see When Good Stress Goes Bad on page 18). Stress comes
in three forms—positive, tolerable and toxic. Some stress is part of healthy development, but when the body and brain must
frequently respond to chronic or excessive stress or adversity, it can harm a child’s brain and other organs. This can increase the
lifelong risk of physical and mental health problems, from heart disease to depression and addictions. The possible effects of
toxic stress are, however, greatly reduced when children have supportive adults to help them cope.
While the brain is able to change (an ability called plasticity) for a lifetime, it is much easier and more effective to make
changes earlier in life. It is less costly to individuals, families and society to get brain development right in the early years than it
is to try to fix it later.
During the past three decades, scientists and researchers around the world have gained tremendous insight and knowledge
into our brains and the interaction of nature and nurture. Here in Alberta we have become world leaders in gathering this
knowledge, making our communities stronger and ensuring a healthy future for our children. We hope you enjoy this issue, and
we encourage you to share your thoughts about it on our Facebook page at facebook.com/applemagca.