Pathways to Wellness

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Nature and nurture

Brain development begins during pregnancy, and some brain systems are already working pretty well before the baby is born.  For example, newborns recognize the sound of their mother's voice and their native language because the part of the brain involved in hearing and understanding speech kicks in about 3 months before birth.

But other parts of the brain – like those involved in planning, reasoning and controlling impulses – develop much, much later in young adulthood.  

Brain development after birth is affected by both genes and experience.  Genes determine the basic wiring of the brain but experience fills in the details.  For example, humans are primed to learn language and certain parts of our brain are wired to understand and produce speech.  But which language we learn, our accent, how many words we know and whether we experience stage fright when talking in front of groups are determined by our experiences.

We don't have control over our genes, but we can provide children with experiences that build better brains.   Children's brains are built through day to day activities and experiences – what they see, hear, taste, feel and do.  The brain pathways which are stimulated by the 5 senses grow stronger; pathways that aren't used die off.  Brain scientists are fond of saying, "cells that fire together, wire together."  


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