Importance of first five years of brain development

The brain is the only organ in the body that takes a long time to grow and develop, undergoing amazing anatomical and functional changes from the prenatal stage to early adulthood.

After birth, a baby’s daily experiences play an important role in the development of his or her brain. The number of new synapses increases exponentially in the postnatal period, especially in the first two weeks of life. At this stage of development, the production of new neurons (neurogenesis) and the connection between them (synaptogenesis) increases the possibility of modification of brain function (brain plasticity), which depends mainly on early experiences. This means that if the baby is exposed to affective deprivation at this stage, phenomena of neuronal death (apoptosis) will occur at the cerebral level, resulting in a greater vulnerability to stress and a decrease in the infant’s immune response.

For this reason, parental attention during early childhood is crucial for brain maturation, especially for the structures responsible for affectivity and memory.

Humans need a significant postnatal experience to adapt to the new environment and to learn a form of communication that allows them to survive in it. In this sense, lullabies, the mother’s conversations with her baby, her tone and timbre of voice from the first moments of life will help the baby to produce and decode the speech sounds that will form the basis of language, since daily experiences modify the neural circuits during the so-called critical periods for learning spoken language.

Early childhood is the launching pad for our sensory and perceptual universe, which will not only allow us to stay alive (when approaching or moving away from a stimulus) but will also be the vehicle for the conduction of cognitive, motor, and emotional information. The first years of life are critical for human development, as early experiences shape the architecture of the brain and shape future behavior. During this period, the brain undergoes phenomenal changes: it grows, develops, and goes through sensitive periods for some learning, so it needs an environment with meaningful experiences, multisensory stimuli, adequate physical resources; but above all, it needs an environment enriched by the care, responsibility, and affection of a committed adult.

That is why experts advise, and never forget: Read, sing, and talk to your young son or daughter because they need it.

La importancia del desarrollo cerebral en los primeros cinco años

A groundbreaking TED Talk by 7-year-old Molly Wright, a second-grader from Queensland, Australia, who is now one of the youngest TED speakers in history, is set to change the way parents and caregivers around the world view early childhood brain development and the way adults interact with children, and aims to show that there are simple but transformative things we can all do to help children thrive.

MOLLY’S TED TALK Project aims to raise awareness around the world about the critical importance of brain development in the first five years of a child’s life and the impact it has on their future.

Backed by the latest research on child development and presented as a TED Talk, the short film aims to empower and motivate parents, caregivers, and community members to engage more meaningfully and frequently with children.

The talk highlights the tangible benefits of positive, reciprocal “serve and give back” interactions and the impact this has on a child’s lifelong learning, health, and well-being. It also includes key messages about the importance of play, the prenatal period, and children’s mental health.

Building on the five key tips of connect, talk, play, healthy home and community, the talk explains the simple and fun things we can do to make a big difference to a child’s brain development and well-being, and the role we can all play.

So, can a game of hide-and-seek change the world?