Humans are amazing down to our genetic code, and there are no other creatures on the planet that can compare. Although we are a part of the primate family phylogenetically, clearly we are vastly different in many ways. One major difference is humans have the largest heads, yet the smallest birth canals. Besides a considerably more difficult birthing process, this is due to the fact that our brain nearly triples in size by age of 3 years old. We are only born with roughly 20-25% of our total brains. This means that early in life it is vastly important to help out babies develop physically and neurologically.
The best way to build a healthy brain is to shower your child in stimuli whenever it is possible. This can include; light, sound, vibration, odors, tastes, temperature, gravity, and most importantly touch! Even though we are born with a good amount of our total brain cells our brains are rapidly developing, through branching between one another, as well as developing in maturation. Total brain growth is mainly connecting cells with branches either on the same, or opposite of the brain.
The more a brain is stimulated the more it will increase in size, connectivity, and speed of overall processing. Success in engaging your child in proper neurological stimulation is based upon: how often they are exposed, how long they are exposed, and how intense the overall stimulus is. Overall the rule of thumb is to get your children moving at all chances possible, play music for your baby and don’t be afraid to speak with your child using a low tone of voice while still in mom’s tummy. Lastly, ensure your child is getting enough sleep to recover and grow. Early on in life baby will be sleeping most of his/her life, but even as your child gets older 8-10 hours of sleep is vital to ensure proper development.
There was a study conducted on kittens many years ago looking at brain development changes. One of the groups of cats were never allowed to walk on their own. These cats were introduced to their environment by being carried around, and then returned to their cages. In the end the cats eyes never developed enough to see. It is estimated they were able to see some movement and most likely in black/white but overall considered blind. This goes to show how important it is for our children to be moving around and experiencing their environments through exploration.
Our automatic reflexes that coordinate a majority of our lives during year 1-1.5 all live in our brainstem (area circled above). This area holds a lot of our body regulatory functions, and evolutionary simple aspects of life that are needed, but we do not directly coordinate. This can include options like: heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc. As we develop our brains grow and make new connections, getting more and more advanced during development. The dark line on top of the circles is outlining our motor cortex, which just like the name suggests helps control all body movements in part. This is an incredibly important area to develop early in life because our frontal lobes grow directly out of this strip (direction of arrow). Many scientists believe our frontal lobes are the main reason we have advanced so much as a species, and what makes humans special. Our frontal lobes control executive function, planning, impulse control, and really everything we are as a cumulative person. If early development does not progress properly to allow a child to learn to move their bodies efficiently, overall development may perish. Skipping steps or abnormal steps of development can make it difficult to grow a frontal lobe, and the rest of the brain.
With a vast topic such as this, the direction can be taken on a variety of routes from: nutrition, sleep hygiene, body hygiene, socialization, toxin exposure, stress exposure, and so much more. All of these play an important roll in proper development, but I believe one of the most important overall is MOVEMENT. This means proper coordinated movement based on the child’s age. Beginning with early squirming, then batting at objects, then grasping at objects, into army crawl, regular crawl, propping themselves up, and then finally walking. Even after a child begins to walk there is nearly 20 years left of brain development so that importance does not end! Make your child go outside, make them get away from screens, take the steps, go for a hike, learn to ride a bike, teach them to cook, sign them up for sports, dance, theatre, etc. These will each aid in growing a brain that is well rounded and equivalent side to side. All of these steps are important, along with others, and will give your child the best odds to develop a happy & healthy life.
If you have any questions or concerns reach out to me anytime or set up a free consult to talk in person!
Dr. Jacob Boraas
Functional Healing Institute