ERIC Number: ED405123
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1996
Reference Count: N/A
Starting Smart: How Early Experiences Affect Brain Development. An Ounce of Prevention Fund Paper.
Ounce of Prevention Fund.
Recent research has provided great insight into the impact of early experience on brain development. It is now believed that brain growth is highly dependent upon early experiences. Neurons allow communication and coordinated functioning among various brain areas. Brain development after birth consists of an ongoing process of wiring and rewiring the connections among neurons. The forming and breaking of neural connections depends directly on the child's experiences; only those connections and pathways frequently activated are retained. Children who have little opportunity to explore and experiment with their environment may fail to fully develop neural connections and pathways that facilitate later learning and thus may be at a permanent intellectual disadvantage. Further, exposure to trauma or chronic stress can make children more prone to emotional disturbances and less able to learn because they have overactive neural pathways that control the fear response, causing their brains to be organized primarily for survival. It is possible to influence disadvantaged children's development through early intervention programs as evidenced by the results of the Abecedarian Project. Communities can help families promote their children's brain development by: (1) educating them about the importance of early experience; (2) preventing abuse and neglect; (3) providing accessible quality mental health services; and (4) ensuring adequate early nutrition. Child care providers need training in devising appropriate environments, and parents need information on choosing quality child care. (Recommended readings are included. Contains 14 references.) (KDFB)
Descriptors: Child Abuse, Child Development, Child Neglect, Childhood Needs, Early Experience, Early Intervention, Emotional Development, Environmental Influences, Individual Development, Infant Care, Infants, Intellectual Development, Nature Nurture Controversy, Neurological Impairments, Nutrition
Ounce of Prevention Fund, 122 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 2050, Chicago, IL 60603; phone: 312-922-3863; fax: 312-922-3337; internet: HN3852@handsnet.org
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Ounce of Prevention Fund.