development) was developed, so weremetaphors such as brain architecture,serve and return, air traffic control,faultlines, levelness and toxic stress.
These terms, which were developedby FrameWorks and have appearedregularly in Apple since our Fall 2012issue on brain development, are usedto quickly and more easily conveycomplex concepts. For example, brainarchitecture is like the constructionof a home—building begins withthe foundation and continues withframing, wiring, plumbing and so on.
The stronger a child’s foundation in theearly years, the greater the chance ofhealth in later years.
In 2007, the Harvard Center releasedits core story about the brain andearly childhood development. Shortlyafter, the Alberta Family WellnessInitiative (AFWI) made it a missionto tell Albertans the core story of thebrain. And like the Harvard Center,the AFWI hopes to have people betterunderstand what the story means tothem and see the story used to shapepublic policy.
This sounds deceptively simple,when it’s really been a massiveundertaking, involving the blendingof neuroscience and communicationsscience and recruiting championsfrom philanthropy, health care, healthresearch, social services, the legaland justice systems and communityorganizations. No other province andonly a handful of U.S. states havetried to create such a critical mass ofunderstanding about the brain.
To use another metaphor, the core
story of the brain is having a ripple
effect in our province—moving in
waves to more and more people and
communities. Last fall more than 20
“innovation teams” attending a five-day long AFWI symposium pledged totake the core story of the brain to theirvarious professions and communities.
The core story has also rippled intopublic policy. Education Alberta’sEarly Child Development MappingProject (ECMap) is looking at thefactors affecting healthy earlychildhood development (see page20). The Alberta Approach to EarlyChildhood Development is a provincialgovernment initiative to give allchildren the opportunity to reach theirfull potential.
The ripple effect of the core storywill move through the province formany years, giving generations ofAlbertans the opportunity to turnscience and innovation into part of oureveryday lives.
— Terry Bullick
A case in point: the core
story of the brain
• Brains are both born and built over
time based on our experiences
• Our experiences in the first years of
life affect the physical architecture
of the brain
• Children’s brain architecture needs
positive relationships with parents
and other adults for lifelong good
mental function and health
• Serve and return interactions are
the building blocks of solid brain
architecture. Just as in a game of
volleyball or tennis, a child “serves”
with a touch, look, gesture or
sound and an adult “returns” with a
• Stress also affects brain
development. Some stress is healthy
and helps us learn how to cope. But
toxic stress (chronic, unrelenting
and unpredictable) can be harmful,
especially to children
• The brain needs solid architecture
for air traffic control, or executive
function. Just as air traffic control
allows many planes to use an airport
without colliding, executive function
gives us the ability to focus, plan and
remember in diverse situations
• Kids need adults and communities to
build solid brain architecture.