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Early Relationships: The Key Ingredient of Brain Development Presented by: Mary Ann Marchel, Ph D. University of Minnesota Duluth Unified Early Childhood.

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Presentation on theme: "Early Relationships: The Key Ingredient of Brain Development Presented by: Mary Ann Marchel, Ph D. University of Minnesota Duluth Unified Early Childhood."— Presentation transcript:

1 Early Relationships: The Key Ingredient of Brain Development Presented by: Mary Ann Marchel, Ph D. University of Minnesota Duluth Unified Early Childhood Studies

2 Agenda: Monday AM 9:00-9:30 – Introductions and Icebreaker 9:30-10-:30 Early Relationships: The Key Ingredient of Brain Development 10:30-Break 10:45-11:30 Autism 11:30-1:00 Make it Take It Part I 1:00-2:00 Lunch 2:00-4:00 Make it Take it Part II

3 A Bit About Our Purpose: To create a safe learning environment that nourishes and promotes your thinking about you in the context of your relationships with children, families, and staff. As facilitators, we are committed to supporting creative and open exploration of relationship- based work as it applies to your setting. We hope to create a holding environment that furthers your journey in this important work. Take advantage of the Wondering Wall.

4 Its all about the bricks and mortar: Infant Mental Health as the Context for Robust Early Intervention Services.

5 The Hierarchy of Well-Being Relationship Experiences Social Experience Sensory Input Food Shelter

6 What do we know about the relationship between early relationships and brain development ? Infants develop in the context of relationships Their brains develop neural connections in response to their experience The quality of the relationship between parent and child matters most, as they need experience with an effective relational partner in order for the parts to organize into a self

7 Key Ingredients: Emotions… Emotions organize behavior……. and lay the foundation for sense of self (inner working model).

8 Key Ingredients: Social Infants are biologically predisposed to interact with others. Originates with survival need. Harlows work with rhesus monkeys demonstrates the critical role of contact with others in development. Harlows

9 There is no such thing as an infant….If you set out to describe a baby you will find you are describing a baby and someone. A baby cannot exist alone, but is essentially part of a relationship. D.W. Winnicott, 1966

10 Ingredients: Relational Relationships provide the framework and context in which behaviors are organized. The Still Face Procedure by Ed Tronick provides an example of the opportunities that exist in each interaction.Still Face Procedure

11 The Importance of Relationships Relationship is the fuel that drives development, affecting basic capacities such as self-regulation, exploration and learning, identity, and interpersonal understanding The parent (relational partner) is the organizer of the childs psychological experience Relationship can be stressed by internal and external factors

12 Relationships Effect virtually all aspects of development: Intellectual Social Emotional Physical Behavioral Moral

13 Caregiver as Co regulator Baby as Interactor Bidrectional Process Infant regulates and refines care Givers behavior in the service of her Own adaptation (Sander, 1979; Vgotsky, 1987) Caregiver, in turn provides the scaffolding to help promote the infants successful adaptation

14 Taken together, these ingredients comprise the key components of infant mental health. How do we as professionals who work with young children and their families Activate and nourish the growth of these ingredients to create robust programs? What are some key ingredients of Early Intervention programs?

15 Attachment Brain Development Parent-Child Relationship Intervention Skills Self-Awareness

16 An integrated understanding of attachment and how it affects development An understanding of the attachment system and the relationship between security and exploration Can a child form different attachments to different people? How does attachment affect self-regulation, exploration, peer relationships?

17 An understanding of the importance of organized stimulation in the early years An awareness of the role of relationship in brain development as well as the role of the environment An awareness of the effects of environmental stress on brain development

18 An understanding of the complex and long- lasting factors that affect the relationship between parent and child An understanding of the effects of the parent-child relationship on development An appreciation for the deeply PERSONAL history and convictions that every parent brings to parenting A sensitivity to the nuances of cultural and familial differences in parenting

19 Relationally-based intervention with parent and child Skills of observation, regulation, reflection, translation Professional use of self: noticing, feeling, containing, assessing – learning to promote strengths by being with Helping parent learn new skills for self and child: think about, feel for, act on behalf of, derive pleasure from

20 A bit of basic information about brain development

21 Mechanisms by which we become and stay attached to others are biologically primed and increasingly discernable in the basic structure of the brain. Nurturing environments, or the lack of them, affect the development of brain circuitry. Nurturing touch promotes growth and alertness in babies. Presence of a secure attachment protects toddlers from biochemical effects of stress. Field, 1986; 1995 Gunnar, 1989; 1996 Hardwired to Connect

22 Brain Development In Infants and Toddlers Developed by Ronald J. Lally. © 2007, WestEd, The Program for Infant/Toddler Care. This document may be reproduced for educational purposes.

23 Intellect, Logic, Reasoning Motor Area Sensory area Taste Language Vision Balance Speech Hearing Emotional Regulation

24 Gene / Environment Interaction Environments can influence genes as they release. Their intensity can either reduce or increase genetically based risks.

25 The Program for Infant/Toddler Care (Ron Lally, 2007). West Ed. National Science Council on the Developing Child Following information taken from

26 Abstract Thought Logic Reasoning Attachment Context Memory Sexual Behavior Emotion Reactivity Appetite/Satiety Blood Pressure Body Temperature Motor Regulation Balance Heart Rate Breathing FOREBRAIN Cortex Executive Center MIDBRAIN Limbic Emotional Center HINDBRAIN Cerebellum & Brainstem Alarm Center Hierarchy of Brain Development

27 Gene / Environment Interaction Environments can influence genes as they release. Their intensity can either reduce or increase genetically based risks.

28 Brain development progresses in a hierarchical, bottom-up sequence, with advanced skills built on more basic capabilities. As it develops, the quality of brain architecture establishes a sturdy or weak foundation for learning and behavior. Brain circuits consolidate with increasing age, making them more difficult to rewire. The timetable of brain plasticity varies: it is narrow for basic sensory abilities, wider for language, and broadest for cognitive and social-emotional skills. Brain Architecture is Built Over Time

29 Brain development progresses in a hierarchical, bottom-up sequence, with advanced skills built on more basic capabilities. As it develops, the quality of brain architecture establishes a sturdy or weak foundation for learning and behavior. Brain circuits consolidate with increasing age, making them more difficult to rewire. The timetable of brain plasticity varies: it is narrow for basic sensory abilities, wider for language, and broadest for cognitive and social-emotional skills. Brain Architecture is Built Over Time

30 Prenatal: – Poor nutrition – Pregnancy complications – Alcohol – Prescription, O-T-C, & illegal drugs – Exposure to toxins – Stress – Parental depression Birth & First Months – Poor Nutrition – Delivery complications – Neurological insult – Exposure to toxins – Difficult temperament/ hyperactivity/attention/ impulsivity problems – Stress – Parental depression Early Risk Factors

31 Thompson, R. A., & Nelson, C. A. (2001). Developmental science and the media: Early brain development. American Psychologist, 56(1), Months YearsDecades

32 Experience creates Expectation which alters Perception

33 Culture influences every aspect of human development and is reflected in childrearing beliefs and practices designed to promote healthy adaptation. Core Concept #2 From Neurons to Neighborhoods National Academy of Sciences, 2000

34 Understanding and Dealing with Stress Image: © 1999 Scientific Learning Corporation

35 Prenatal Development (Eliot, 1999) The nervous system begins to develop just before the third week of gestation. Cell creation and movement to the right spots occur during the first five prenatal months. Brain Size: 25% at Birth; 90% Age 5 Talking Reasonably and Responsibly about Early Brain Development, University of Minnesota

36 Positive Stress Refers to moderate, short-lived stress responses, such as brief increases in heart rate or mild changes in stress hormone levels. Learning to adjust to it is an essential feature of healthy development. Examples: meeting new people, getting an immunization, entering child care. Refers to moderate, short-lived stress responses, such as brief increases in heart rate or mild changes in stress hormone levels. Learning to adjust to it is an essential feature of healthy development. Examples: meeting new people, getting an immunization, entering child care. Events that provoke positive stress tend to be those that a child can learn to control and manage well with the support of caring adults and which occur against the backdrop of generally safe, warm, and positive relationships. Events that provoke positive stress tend to be those that a child can learn to control and manage well with the support of caring adults and which occur against the backdrop of generally safe, warm, and positive relationships. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain. (2005). Working Paper No. 3., Summer 2005.

37 Tolerable Stress Refers to stress responses that could disrupt brain architecture, but generally occur within a time-limited period and are buffered by supportive relationships that facilitate adaptive coping. These conditions usually give the brain an opportunity to recover from potentially damaging effects. Refers to stress responses that could disrupt brain architecture, but generally occur within a time-limited period and are buffered by supportive relationships that facilitate adaptive coping. These conditions usually give the brain an opportunity to recover from potentially damaging effects. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain. (2005). Working Paper No. 3., Summer Examples of stressors include death, a serious illness of a loved one, a frightening injury, divorce. Examples of stressors include death, a serious illness of a loved one, a frightening injury, divorce.

38 Toxic Stress Refers to strong and prolonged activation of the bodys stress management systems in the absence of the buffering protection of adult support, disrupts brain architecture and leads to stress management systems that respond at relatively lower thresholds, and increases the risk of stress-related physical and mental illness. Refers to strong and prolonged activation of the bodys stress management systems in the absence of the buffering protection of adult support, disrupts brain architecture and leads to stress management systems that respond at relatively lower thresholds, and increases the risk of stress-related physical and mental illness. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain. (2005). Working Paper No. 3., Summer Examples of stressors include extreme poverty, physical or emotional abuse, chronic and serious neglect, enduring maternal depression, family violence. Examples of stressors include extreme poverty, physical or emotional abuse, chronic and serious neglect, enduring maternal depression, family violence.

39 Tolerable and Toxic Stress Alarm, Alarm Alarm Relaxation

40 Stress Persistent Stress Changes Brain Architecture Source: C. Nelson (2008) Normal Chronicstress Prefrontal Cortex and Hippocampus Bock et al Cer Cort 15:802 (2005) Typical - neuron with many connections Neuron damaged by toxic stress – fewer connections

41 Under Any Type of Perceived Threat Under Any Type of Perceived Threat (physical, intellectual or emotional) The Brain: loses ability to take in subtle clues reverts to tried & true behaviors becomes more automatic & over-reactive is less able to use higher order thinking skills loses some memory capacity

42 Increase in heart rate Increase in blood pressure Increase in breathing rate Increase in muscle tone Release of stored sugar Hyper-vigilance Tuning out of all non-critical information The Bodys Response to Stress

43 The capacity to deal with stress is controlled by a set of highly interrelated brain circuits and hormonal systems that are specifically designed to deal adaptively with environmental challenges. When an individual feels threatened, stress hormones are produced that convert the physical or emotional stress into chemical signals that are sent throughout the body as well as to the brain. Excessive stress disrupts the architecture of the developing brain Working Paper #3 Summer 2005, National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Chemicals in the Brain

44 Kills brain cells Reduces number of cell connections Shrinks hippocampus Impairs selective attention Impairs thinking Creates anxious behavior Cortisol

45 High levels trigger over-arousal and tendency toward impulsive, hot- blooded acts of violence. Noradrenalin: An Alarm Hormone

46 Low levels = an adaptation to a threatening environment - impulsive, aggressive behavior Normal levels = clear thinking, social success Serotonin: An Impulse Modulator

47 1.How can child care programs help children cope with tolerable stress? 2.How can child care programs avoid exposing infants to toxic stress while in care? 3.How can your program support infants who are experiencing toxic stress outside the child care program? Small Group Questions:

48 Watch childs cues for signs of interest Ask what the child wants Adapt your behavior to childs signals Bathe child in language Concern yourself with identity messages Responsive Care

49 What do you think would be most important for infant care teachers and families with infants and toddlers to know about early brain development? What has worked for you? Please share with your group a successful strategy you have used to teach about brain development of infants and toddlers. Please write one statement about each. Small Group Question:

50 There are learning windows but for humans most windows never close completely Synapse loss is a natural occurrence based on the pruning of seldom used connections Early emotional and social experiences are as important to the wiring of the brain as intellectual experiences Healthy early development depends on nurturing and dependable relationships Experiences create expectations which alter perceptions Points to Remember


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