Most of the brain’s cells are formed before birth, but most of the connections among the cells are made during infancy and early childhood. It is the synapses and connections between the cells that determines how quickly information leaps between brain cells. In general, the thicker the outer sheath of the brain cell becomes and the more dendrites and synapses the brain has, the greater its processing power. More pathways mean information can travel in several ways, opening the door to faster and more complex thinking. And these pathways can only be brought along with usage! From birth the brain is rapidly creating synaptic connections, triggered by stimulation from the environment, increasing your baby’s brain volume and weight. At birth a baby has around 2500 synapses per neuron; these increase to up to 15 000 by the time a child is three years old. It is estimated that by three years of age, the brain has already formed about 1000 trillion connections.
The growth of the head reveals this clearly. From birth to age two-and-a half years the head grows 15 cm in circumference. From the age of two-and-a-half to adulthood the head will only grow another 5 cm and most of that will take place before six years of age (Doman & Doman 2005:22)! There is a lot of other research available, but perhaps one of the most fascinating reports is about a recent MRI study about the robust growth of the human brain in the first two years of life (Knickmeyer & Gouttard 2008). The total brain volume increased on average by 101% in the first year, with a 15% increase in the second year. The cerebellum’s volume alone increased on average by 240% during the first year. This confirmed to the researchers that the first year of life is a critical period during which disruption of developmental processes may have a long-lasting effect on brain structure and function. This is why we focus our programme on the first year of life to play smart for your baby’s kick-start.
Doman, G. & Doman, J., 2005, How smart is your baby? Develop and nurture your newborn’s full potential, Square One Publishers, India.
Knickmeyer, R.C. & Gouttard, R.S., 2008, “A Structural MRI Study of Human Brain Development from Birth to 2 years”, The Journal of Neuroscience 28(47), Nov 19, 12176-12182.