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Sponge Like Brain

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Neurobiology and Behavior

Professor Grobstein

April 29th, 2010

Marianne Leung


Sponge Like Brain


Ever heard of the saying, “A child’s brain is like a sponge?” Growing up, my mom has repeatedly told me to take advantage of learning all that I can at a young age. I have always wonder why this was the case. Wasn’t learning a life long process? Then one day after lunch with my uncle, I realized what that statement meant. He told me that the optimum learning period is between birth till a certain age during childhood. When a baby is still in the early embryo stage, the brain is already beginning its development process when cell division proliferates into millions of neurons in the brain. Once the child is born, the billions of neuron start to interact with each other creating neural pathways within the nervous system. Since each individual neuron can make at least 15,000 new connections, there are infinite amount of connections and circuitry can be established to form a child’s experience and capabilities. The reason behind this is because the brain is the most malleable during these early years. That is the time when our brain will retain the most amount of information with barely any effort, especially when it comes to language acquisition. According to research experts, 90% of a child’s brain develops during the first five years of childhood. This is when the brain develops sets of characteristics, such as intelligence, emotional stability and personality, which shape the child. This is also the reason why parental involvement at a young age is also crucial. Their teachings and actions are in direct correlation with the child’s reading readiness, vocabulary development and future academic endeavors. In fact, a significant part of child development is the environment and surroundings in which it grows up in. Take me for an example. I spent a part of my childhood in Taiwan. My parents made the decision to have Chinese as my first language instead of English. Although I never formally learned English while I was living in Taiwan, I was surrounded by family members who did speak English from time to time. My mom keeps telling me that, me being able to speak English like a native speaker with no accent and learn it quite quickly when we moved to the states all relates back to environmental factors. However, other input factors like stimulation, love, nurture and proper nutrition all have direct impacts on our physiological, psychological and cognitive development. Research shows that “the importance of essential fatty acids like DHA in promoting the cognitive functions and development of children. Their intelligence and mental stability can be enhanced with brain food.” What is more amazing are that the environment, nurturing and love, which all could be taken for granted, can alter genetic expression and change gene function that determines how the brain will develop.

Now that I understand the meaning behind the saying a little better, I can understand why parents have so many extra curricular activities lined up for their kids at such a young age. Any thing that will stimulate the brain will have an impact on its development. This also applies to animals. Animals in the wild get exposed to more stimuli that trigger crucial survival instincts that captive animals lack. The same goes with our brain development. The more exposure you get, the more synaptic connections your brain can make.



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