The brain’s capacity to change andreorganize with input from theenvironment. Usually, the brain is mostplastic during early development; thisis also when it’s the most vulnerable toharm and the most capable of recovery.
As we get older, our brain circuitsstabilize and they become harder tochange.
Our health—including our braindevelopment—is largely based onepigenetics: the genes we get from ourparents, and our environment (how andwhere we live). Epigenetics can alsobe thought of as how the environmentinfluences gene expression.
This learned ability is like the air trafficcontrol tower at a busy airport wherehundreds of planes take off and landsafely. Executive function allows us tofocus, hold and work with information,filter out distraction and switch mentalgears. We need it to manage information,prioritize and complete tasks, handlestress and practise self-control.
A person’s emotional and biologicalwell-being, which is influenced by social,environmental and biological factors.
Billions of connections that let theneurons communicate at lightning speed.In the first few years of life, our brainforms 700 new neural connections everyminute. The Center on the DevelopingChild at Harvard University says “earlyexperiences affect the nature and qualityof the brain’s developing architecture bydetermining which circuits are reinforcedand which are pruned through lack ofuse. Some people refer to this as ‘use it orlose it.’ ”
Parents, adults and caregivers
Throughout this issue, we referto parents, adults and caregiversinterchangeably. Children neednurturing, supportive and encouragingadults for sturdy brain development.
The ability to bounce back from setbacksand cope with life’s ups and downs.
Resiliency includes skills such asproblem solving, empathy and emotionalregulation, which is the ability to showemotions in ways that won’t hurt oneselfor others.
Serve and return
An interactive process that builds brainarchitecture. Think of it as a game oftennis or volleyball. A child begins witha gesture or sound—a “serve”—andyou respond with a supportive andencouraging “return.” This can continuewith a “volley” of exchanges. We havethese sensitive, responsive exchangesthroughout our lives, but they’re criticalin early childhood because they’re thebuilding blocks for a healthy brain.
We experience three types of stress.
•;Positive stress can be motivational;we can feel it when we’re gettingready for a meeting at work or playinga game of hockey. This type of stresshelps us deal with adverse situationsand become resilient.
•;Tolerable stress is the temporaryresult of a serious event, such as acar crash or the death of a loved one.People often overcome tolerablestress with the help of supportiverelationships with family, friends andothers.
•;Toxic stress is chronic, unrelentingand unpredictable. It can be harmful,especially to children, and it’s oftenthe result of neglect, abuse or extremedeprivation. |a