child deal with stressful situationsresiliently, and create a strong base forlater development.
Dr. Bryan Kolb, a neuroscientist
and professor in the Department of
Neuroscience at the University of
Lethbridge, says the most critical period
for brain formation is between the second
trimester of pregnancy and
approximately four years of age. This
is when the brain creates the links that
form our abilities to think, move and
experience things with our physical
senses. These changes continue at
a reduced pace through childhood
and adolescence, with brain maturity
typically reached by about the age of 25.
New research, however, is showingthat the brain’s ability to “rewire” itselfextends far beyond the first two decadesof life, and that it may happen in asurprising way.
cientists have foundthat our own thoughtsand activities are crucialelements in brain restructuring and repair.
“The discovery that
our thoughts can change the structure
and function of our brain — even into old
age — is the most important breakthrough
in neuroscience in four centuries,” says Dr.
Norman Doidge, a professor withthe University of Toronto’s Departmentof Psychiarity and author of The BrainThat Changes Itself.
To learn something new is to changeour brain architecture. We do this byrepeatedly using particular portionsof our brains in a new way. The morewe repeat the process, the more likely itis that new brain pathways will develop.
As Doidge says, “Neurons that fire
together, wire together.”
For example, our brain architecture can
be rebuilt when breaking an addiction
or following a stroke.
This ability to change is possible
because of brain plasticity or
“neuroplasticity,” from “neuro,” our
neurons (or nerve cells), and “plastic,”
“Brain plasticity” is the brain’s capacity
to change as a result of input from the
environment. Brain circuits are built in a
bottom-up sequence during development.
As a general rule, the brain is most plastic
during the early period of development,
meaning that during this time it is the
most vulnerable to harm and the most
capable of recovery. As brain circuits
stabilize, they become more difficult —
but not always impossible — to alter.
The architecture of a healthy humanbrain begins to be laid before birth.The basic architecture of the brainis like the construction of a home —building begins with laying thefoundation, framing the rooms andwiring the electrical system in anorderly way. Our early experiencesliterally shape how our brains get built.A strong foundation in the early yearsincreases the chances of a healthy life.A weak foundation increases the riskof problems later in life.
From birth through the first fewyears of life, the brain develops rapidly.It influences all that we are and become,and is fundamentally responsible forhow we think and feel about life and howwe interpret our experiences.
The stability of brain architecturethroughout life depends on the quality ofthe foundation. Positive early experiencesbuild pathways in the brain that help a
our brains are constantly adapting,