To view this page ensure that Adobe Flash Player version 11.1.0 or greater is installed.
DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Just as a leaky faucet drips to fill a pan or sink, a steady stream of information flows from the child’s surroundings, is transmitted to the brain through the child’s senses, and builds and builds—leading to learning. This stream of information eventually pours into the river of existing information. This river of information eventually pours into an ocean of knowledge. But reading, writing, and arithmetic are not the only lessons that children learn; they also learn the essentials of human society: to com- municate and get along with others in a socially acceptable way, to be motivated to learn and have good self-esteem, and to learn academic subjects and to apply the knowledge to their lives. They learn how to move in space and to apply the prin- ciples of investigation and processes to relate one idea to another. Children’s development depends on their inheritance of genes plus their interactions within their surroundings. Learning begins the moment children are born and continues through- out life. You are there to guide, help, and move the child from one stage to the next. About Brain Research It is important to remember that brain research is a relatively new science frontier, and that scientific information about the brain changes rapidly. What is discovered today may be updated with new break- throughs tomorrow. Twenty years ago, researchers understood that babies are born with 100 million brain cells and would never manufacture more. 2 i n t r o d u c t i o n Today there is growing evidence that brain cells are created under certain circumstances; for example, some mothers experience brain growth in the first months after giving birth (Sohn 2010). Some of the original reports equated all brain cells and neurons with each other. Now we know that glial cells, or “glue” cells, keep the environment of the brain free from waste and bring nutrients to each neuron or brain cell. Glial cells make up about 90 percent of the brain’s mass. Neurobiologists have begun to understand glial cells’ role in growth and develop- ment of the brain. Brain cells called mirror neurons have recently been identified. Mirror neurons help young children—and all people—mimic the actions of others. When we see someone yawn, we feel the urge to yawn. This effect might suggest that mirror neurons are at work. Newborns will copy a tongue thrust; small children watch adults and copy their reactions to events. This imitation of a seen behav- ior, again, may be evidence of mirror neuron activ- ity. Most people smile when seeing someone else smile. Mirror neurons play a major role in each person’s ability to empathize and socialize. People depend on others’ facial expressions as interactions occur (Society for Neuroscience 2008). A new scientific field called fetal origins is bringing new information to light about the time between conception and birth. We know that smok- ing, alcohol, poor nutrition, and certain drugs affect the newborn’s brain and physical development. We also are learning about the effects of maternal depression and traumatic events—such as war, death of a spouse, poverty, or terrorist attacks, among other things—on the developing fetus. Newborns whose mothers experienced depres- sion or traumatic events while pregnant may have higher levels of stress hormones in their blood. Their babies are more likely to be fussier, harder to soothe, and have sleep problems. As they grow, these children are more disposed to be impulsive, are more hyperactive, and demonstrate emotional and behavioral problems. In addition, longitudinal research shows that negative fetal environments can lead to adults who suffer from mental illness, heart problems, and diabetes (Paul 2010). COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL