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I 14 Chapter 1 The Infant Brain Every lullaby, every giggle and peekaboo triggers a crackling along an infant’s neural pathways, laying the foundation for what could someday be a love of art or a talent for soccer or a gift for making and keeping friends. We know that babies who are hugged and feel loved and cared for are much more likely to grow up confident and optimistic. Each sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch physically alters the rapidly developing brain. And these changes forever influence how children perceive the world, the languages they will speak, and their capacity and ease for learning new information as adults. All that from working with infants? You bet. What’s the best thing infants can experience for greater cognitive and physical growth? You should know the answer—you. The positive interactions with other people in children’s early years play an important role in their development. An infant’s best toy is you! With Great Caution winning ways Unfortunately, in situations where children are profoundly deprived of human contact and love, critical areas of the brain remain underdeveloped. More on the Infant Brain: What Do They Really Know? Although infants are born wired for vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, their experiences in infancy and throughout childhood complete the neuronal circuitry. What do infants really know? How can we, as educators, help them learn, grow, and, most importantly, develop a positive foundation for a lifetime of learning? Here’s what you need to know about the senses: Touch Touch is such a crucial sense that the area of the brain responsible for touch perceptions, the primary sensory cortex, can process tactile sensations by the fourth month of gestation. Skin nerves appear at week ten. At birth, the sense of touch is so developed that a baby will prefer soft flannel to rough textures.