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Nurturing the Developing Brain in Early Childhood Lisa Freund, Ph.D. The National Institutes of Health The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of.

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Presentation on theme: "Nurturing the Developing Brain in Early Childhood Lisa Freund, Ph.D. The National Institutes of Health The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Nurturing the Developing Brain in Early Childhood Lisa Freund, Ph.D. The National Institutes of Health The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Bethesda, Maryland U.S.A.

2 The Brain is Still a Mystery

3 Brain Growth AGE BRAIN WEIGHT (GRAMS) 20 WEEKS GESTATION100 BIRTH MONTHS800 3 YEARS OLD 1100 ADULT

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5 The Neuron

6 Brain Growth At birth, most neurons the brain will have are present At birth, most neurons the brain will have are present approx. 100 billion neurons approx. 100 billion neurons By age 2 years, brain is 80% of adult size By age 2 years, brain is 80% of adult size What keeps growing? What keeps growing? Other brain cells (glia) Other brain cells (glia) New neuron connections New neuron connections approx trillion connections by age 3 yrs. approx trillion connections by age 3 yrs.

7 How Does the Developing Brain Become Aware, Learn, Think,? Overproduction of neurons and connections among neurons Overproduction of neurons and connections among neurons Selective reduction of neurons and connections among neurons Selective reduction of neurons and connections among neurons Waves of intense branching and connecting followed by reduction in neurons Waves of intense branching and connecting followed by reduction in neurons Before birth through 3-years-old Before birth through 3-years-old Again at 11- or 12-years-old Again at 11- or 12-years-old

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10 MRI PICTURE OF A HEALTHY 13-YEAR-OLD BOY

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12 Major Areas of the Brain Self-regulation, problem solving, goal setting, social cognition Vision and perception Sensory motor perception, spatial abilities Hearing, language, memory, social - emotional function

13 Cortical thickness development from birth to 54 mos 6 mm 4.5 mm 3 mm 1.5 mm 1 mm over under Months

14 Right lateral and top views of gray matter maturation over the cortical surface.

15 Right View of Gray Matter Maturation Over Brain Surface between Ages 4 to 21 Years

16 How Brain Areas are Developing Anatomical studies of brain development show Anatomical studies of brain development show Occipital lobes show earliest pruning Occipital lobes show earliest pruning Frontal and Temporal lobes show growth of neural connections longer than other areas of the brain…through 3 years old Frontal and Temporal lobes show growth of neural connections longer than other areas of the brain…through 3 years old Frontal and Temporal lobes show pruning of connections longer than other areas of the brain Frontal and Temporal lobes show pruning of connections longer than other areas of the brain Greatest change between 2 years and 5 years Greatest change between 2 years and 5 years

17 Synaptic production and pruning correspond with overall brain activity Young childrens brains work harder and less efficiently than adults

18 Myelinization Speed of connection Speed of connection Begins at birth, rapidly increases to 2-years old Begins at birth, rapidly increases to 2-years old Continues to increase more slowly through 30- years-old Continues to increase more slowly through 30- years-old

19 Myelinization Young childrens brains have fewer neuron connections and work slower than adults

20 How Brain Function is Developing Brain areas with longest periods of organization related to… Brain areas with longest periods of organization related to… self-regulation, self-regulation, problem-solving, problem-solving, language/communication language/communication Social bonding Social bonding Most vigorous growth, pruning, connecting, and activity occurs between 1-1/2 years through 3 or 4 years old Most vigorous growth, pruning, connecting, and activity occurs between 1-1/2 years through 3 or 4 years old Neuroscience is telling us that this may be one of the most important periods for developing self-regulation, problem- solving, social-emotional, and language/communication behaviors Neuroscience is telling us that this may be one of the most important periods for developing self-regulation, problem- solving, social-emotional, and language/communication behaviors

21 Nature and Nurture Genes and environment interact throughout brain development Genes and environment interact throughout brain development Genes form neurons, connections among major brain regions Genes form neurons, connections among major brain regions Environment and experience refines the connections; enhancing some connections while eliminating others Environment and experience refines the connections; enhancing some connections while eliminating others

22 Experience Can Change the Actual Structure of the Brain Brain development is activity-dependent Brain development is activity-dependent Every experience excites some neural circuits and leaves others alone Every experience excites some neural circuits and leaves others alone Neural circuits used over and over strengthen, those that are not used are dropped resulting in pruning Neural circuits used over and over strengthen, those that are not used are dropped resulting in pruning

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24 Differences in brain activity (colored areas) between a typical child reader and a child with reading difficulties

25 Differences in brain activity in the same child before and after specialized reading instruction

26 Experience Can Change Brain Development The brain is undergoing explosive growth in the first years of life and needs organizing experiences to facilitate development. The brain is undergoing explosive growth in the first years of life and needs organizing experiences to facilitate development. Learning results in more consolidation of neuronal activitybrain activity becomes more efficient Learning results in more consolidation of neuronal activitybrain activity becomes more efficient

27 Neglect Impedes Brain Development Limited exposure to language, touch or social interactions Limited exposure to language, touch or social interactions Emotional or cognitive neglect Emotional or cognitive neglect Structural Changes Structural Changes Lack of brain growth beyond effects of poor nutrition Lack of brain growth beyond effects of poor nutrition Neuronal death beyond pruning Neuronal death beyond pruning

28 Brain activity of a normal 5-year-old child (left) and a 5-year-old institutionalized Romanian orphan who was neglected in infancy (right).

29 What early experiences promote healthy brain development? Important areas of brain development are associated with… Important areas of brain development are associated with… Self-control or Self-regulation Self-control or Self-regulation Language/communication Language/communication Learning Learning Social emotional function Social emotional function Research shows that everyday experiences with caregivers or other children can optimize the development in these areas Research shows that everyday experiences with caregivers or other children can optimize the development in these areas

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32 Social Basis of Early Brain Development Early experiences create brain neuron connections Early experiences create brain neuron connections Parent-child interactions are key Parent-child interactions are key And when are they most effective? And when are they most effective? Neuroscience and other research says between birth and 3 to 4-years old Neuroscience and other research says between birth and 3 to 4-years old

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35 Self-Regulation Emotion Regulation Emotion Regulation Capacity to identify feelings Capacity to identify feelings Empathy Empathy Management of strong emotions Management of strong emotions Behavioral Inhibition Behavioral Inhibition Delay gratification Delay gratification Control impulses Control impulses

36 Self-Regulation Attention and Thinking Regulation (Executive Function) Attention and Thinking Regulation (Executive Function) Directing attention Directing attention Mental representation Mental representation Planning Planning Focus on goal Focus on goal Monitor actions; information Monitor actions; information Correct actions Correct actions Identify and use strategies Identify and use strategies

37 Self-Regulation Early parent-child interactions lay basis of self-regulation skills that become internalized by the child Early parent-child interactions lay basis of self-regulation skills that become internalized by the child Directing attention Directing attention Identifying goals Identifying goals Monitoring Childs actions Monitoring Childs actions Correcting Childs actions Correcting Childs actions Modeling strategies Modeling strategies

38 Parent-child Interaction with Infant or Toddler Parent who supports optimal development Parent who supports optimal development Is sensitive to childs cues Is sensitive to childs cues Responds to childs distress Responds to childs distress Takes advantage of simple, everyday activities to stimulate learning Takes advantage of simple, everyday activities to stimulate learning

39 Parent-child Interaction with Infant or Toddler The child can influence interaction through The child can influence interaction through Clarity of his or her cues Clarity of his or her cues Responsiveness to parent Responsiveness to parent Activity level Activity level

40 Parent-child Interaction with 3- to 5- year-old With 3- to 5-year-old With 3- to 5-year-old Directing attention Directing attention Suggesting strategies Suggesting strategies Monitoring, evaluating actions Monitoring, evaluating actions Staying directed toward goal Staying directed toward goal Feedback is less directive Feedback is less directive

41 Reading Comprehension

42 Scaffolding

43 Research has Shown that Successful Scaffolding Results in Healthy Brains Ready to Learn Faster rates of language learning Faster rates of language learning Increased task persistence Increased task persistence Increased self-control Increased self-control More appropriate requests for help More appropriate requests for help Increased self-monitoring during tasks Increased self-monitoring during tasks Increased ability to learn Increased ability to learn Moderates risk factors Moderates risk factors

44 Implications for Early Education

45 We Know that…. Children show improved school achievement Children show improved school achievement With planned, intentional instruction in the preschool years. With planned, intentional instruction in the preschool years. When the literacy environment at home and in school can engage the child. When the literacy environment at home and in school can engage the child. With consistent reading aloud With consistent reading aloud When preschool teachers receive high quality training. When preschool teachers receive high quality training.

46 We know that… Just as parents who provide scaffolding promote healthy development, so can pre- school teachers provide scaffolding in the classroom Just as parents who provide scaffolding promote healthy development, so can pre- school teachers provide scaffolding in the classroom

47 Classroom Scaffolding What types of teacher scaffolding can result in optimal outcomes for children? Providing print and materials that foster their understanding of concepts Responding to childrens requests and signals promptly and sensitively Maintaining and expanding on childrens interests in meaningful learning activities Providing children with choices and prompting children to make thoughtful decisions

48 To Promote the Foundations for Reading Phonological awareness --ability to notice and work with the sounds in language. How quickly children learn to read depends on how much phonological awareness has developed during toddler and preschool years.

49 To Promote Phonological Awareness Teachers and Parents can… Teachers and Parents can… Chose books to read aloud that focus on sounds, rhyming, and alliteration Chose books to read aloud that focus on sounds, rhyming, and alliteration Invite children to make up new verses of familiar words or songs by changing the beginning sounds of words Invite children to make up new verses of familiar words or songs by changing the beginning sounds of words Play games where children isolate the beginning sound in familiar words, and generate rhyming words Play games where children isolate the beginning sound in familiar words, and generate rhyming words

50 Promote Knowledge of Letters Research shows it is important for young children to be able to: Recognize and name letters Recognize beginning letters in familiar words (especially their own name) Recognize both capital and lowercase letters Relate some letters to the specific sounds they represent Teachers and parents can reinforce learning about letters by providing letters in a form children can touch, by playing games with letters, and by helping children write letters.

51 Read Aloud To Promote Interest in Reading Establish a pattern of reading aloud frequently to children. Establish a pattern of reading aloud frequently to children. Ask children questions as you read. Ask children questions as you read. Encourage children to talk about the book. Encourage children to talk about the book. Read aloud many kinds of books. Read aloud many kinds of books. Reread aloud favorite books. Reread aloud favorite books.

52 Teachers and Parents Research has shown Research has shown preschools that support the parent in promoting the childs cognitive development and learning show greatest child achievement in elementary school and beyond preschools that support the parent in promoting the childs cognitive development and learning show greatest child achievement in elementary school and beyond

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