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Scientists have learned more in the past 20 years about how the human brain works than in all of previous history. Knowledge of the brain’s inner, intimate working is doubling every ten years. In particular the essentials of brain development, which control human behaviour, are being worked out in great detail. The first 1,000 days of life, nine months in the womb plus the first two years, physically shape the infant brain and determine its reasoning power and emotional equilibrium.
At least 200 billions of brain cells are formed in the first months of foetal life. Half of them die as hormones and other stimuli eliminate and organise them to form the brain’s basic structure. Still at birth a human baby has the fantastic sum of 100 billion brain cells.
These brain cells are connected to each other and to every part of the baby’s body. At birth there are about 50 trillion connections. As soon as the baby is born, these brain cells under the influence of any external stimuli: visual; touch; smell; sound; taste and emotion go ballistic and accelerate the rate at which they establish connections with each other, forming intricate networks.
Connections are made in a newborn brain at the rate of three billion a second. By one year a baby’s brain has about 1,000 trillion connections. This is the most connections a human being will ever have. After one year of age, connections that are not used gradually begin to die off and by age ten or so you are left with about 500 trillion connections that last most of your life.
These connections are the key to brain power. The more connections you have, the more networks you have, the better your brain. What determines how many connections you have are your first experiences at birth, as a baby. The infant’s brain thrives on feedback from its environment. It wires itself into a thinking and emotional organ because of the things it experiences.
If these connections are not made early in life then you end up with a damaged brain, ie a person who does not talk well, or does not see well, or does not think well or reacts irrationally to emotions. Connections have to be made in a positive sense, stimulated by positive sensations. Moreover, in the same way that positive experiences for the baby stimulate organised networks that enable us to become mature, confident adults, negative or bad experiences have the opposite effect. They stimulate and organise the baby’s experiences into diseased networks
This need to stimulate the baby and to do it positively and not negatively puts extraordinary pressure on the parents of a baby because most of the baby’s experiences occur through its interaction with its parents.
This explains why children of parents who instinctively do such things as talk to their children from birth, or even before birth, or read to their baby, or hug up their infant, or caress their child’s cheek whilst sleeping or dance with them, seem to do better in life. In fact what they are doing is raising their child’s IQs.
When you or your mother or your doctor make your baby smile or coo, it looks like simple fun. But it is much more than play. With each act there is serious brain construction going on those first few years (three billion connections a second!). Each response of the baby is a visual manifestation of millions of brain cells firing commands to forge vital brain networks which increases brain power.
One of the simplest ways to raise intelligence is to talk to your baby. One of the easiest ways to stunt the brain is not to talk to the baby. We also know that the words have to come from someone who talks with love and meaning in his or her voice, and not words from the TV, radio, computer or cell phone. The same goes for adults of course.
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