Infant & Toddler Group Care
Early Brain Development
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Learning Objectives
Participants will be able to:
• Describe key components of early brain
development from prenatal stage to age 3 years.
• Articulate what would be most important for infant
care teachers and families with infants and
toddlers to know about early brain development
and why.
• Identify early risk factors and describe ways their
program can support families when risks are
identified.
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Prenatal Brain Development
The nervous system begins
to develop just before the
third week of gestation.
Cell creation and
movement to the right
spots occur during the first
five prenatal months.
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Sequential Neuronal Development
• At birth, the brain is 25% of
adult size & reaches 85% of
adult size by age three.
• The brain develops from
the bottom up and from
the back to the front.
• Impact of the environment
on the structure and
functioning of the brain is
greatest from conception
to the third birthday.
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Gene - Environment Interaction
• At conception, genes set
the stage for how we
experience the world.
• Environments and
experiences influence
how genes are expressed
– making us more or less
likely to experience
genetically based risks.
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Learning Windows
Months
Years
Decades
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Small Group Discussion:
What do you think would be
most important for infant care
teachers and families with
infants and toddlers to know
about early brain
development?
Please write one statement.
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Video: Ten Things Every Child Needs
(Bruce Perry Clip)
Distributed by ConsumerVision, Inc.,
Telephone 1-800-756-8792
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Early Risk Factors
Prenatal:
• Poor nutrition
• Pregnancy
complications
• Alcohol
• Prescription, O-T-C, &
illegal drugs
• Exposure to toxins
• Stress
• Parental depression
Birth & First Months:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Poor nutrition
Delivery complications
Exposure to toxins
Difficult temperament/
hyperactivity/attention/i
mpulsivity problems
Stress
Parental depression
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Brain Quiz – True or False
• A human baby's brain has the greatest density of
brain cell connectors (synapses) by age 3.
• There are times when a negative experience or
the absence of appropriate stimulation is more
likely to have serious and sustained effects on the
child.
• Brain research has been misunderstood and
misapplied in many contexts.
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Experience
creates
Expectation
which alters
Perception
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Listen to the following scenario…
• What is this infant
experiencing?
• What expectations might
the infant be creating
about the world?
• How would this influence
the infant’s perception of
the world?
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Positive Stress
Refers to moderate, short-lived stress
responses, such as:
•Brief increases in heart rate.
•Mild changes in stress hormone levels.
Examples include:
• Meeting new people
• Getting an immunization
• Entering child care
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Excessive
Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain. (2005).
Working Paper No. 3., Summer 2005.
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Tolerable Stress
Refers to stress responses that could disrupt brain
architecture, but generally occur within a timelimited period. Examples include:
• Death or a serious illness of a loved one.
• A frightening injury.
• Divorce.
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Excessive
Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain. (2005).
Working Paper No. 3., Summer 2005.
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Toxic Stress
Refers to strong and prolonged activation of the
body’s stress management systems in the absence of
the buffering protection of adult support. Examples
are:
• Extreme poverty.
• Physical or emotional abuse.
• Chronic and serious neglect.
• Enduring maternal depression.
• Family violence.
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Excessive
Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain. (2005).
Working Paper No. 3., Summer 2005.
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Tolerable and Toxic Stress
Alarm
Relaxation
Tolerable
Stress
Toxic Stress
Alarm
Alarm
Alarm
Alarm
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When Faced with a Perceived
Threat(physical, intellectual, emotional)
The Brain:
•
Loses ability to take in subtle clues.
•
Becomes more automatic & over-reactive.
•
Is less able to use “higher order” thinking
skills.
•
Loses some memory capacity.
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Chemicals in the Brain
Capacity to adapt to stress is controlled by a set of
highly interrelated brain circuits and hormonal
systems.
Stress produces hormones (e.g. cortisol and
noradrenaline) which are converted into chemical
signals that are sent throughout the body as well as
to the brain.
“Excessive stress disrupts the architecture of the
developing brain” Working Paper #3 Summer 2005,
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.
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Prolonged Exposure to Stress Produces
Cortisol, which:
• Kills brain cells.
• Reduces the number of cell connections.
• Shrinks the hippocampus.
• Impairs selective attention and thinking.
• Creates anxious behavior.
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Brain Areas Activated
in Response to Stress
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Small Group Questions:
1.
How can child care
programs help
children cope with
tolerable stress?
2.
How can your
program support
infants who are
experiencing toxic
stress outside the
child care program?
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The Body’s Response to Stress
• Increase in heart rate/Increase in blood pressure.
• Increase in breathing rate.
• Increase in muscle tone.
• Hyper-vigilance
• Tuning out all non-critical information.
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The Brain is Built to Connect
Nurturing environments, or the
lack of them, affect the
development of brain circuitry.
Nurturing secure attachments
protect infants from effects of
stress.
Nurturing touch and affect
promotes growth and alertness in
babies.
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Connecting Neurons, Concepts, and People:
Brain Development and its Implications,
by Ross A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Jig Saw Activity:
1. Each participant will read quietly his/her
assigned section of the article.
2. Share with the group.
3. Next, identify one of the nine statements
which you feel is most important and why.
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Nurturing Relationships Protect the Brain
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Points to Remember
• Learning windows are times when particular kinds
of input matter most.
• Experiences create expectations which alter
perceptions.
• Children can manage most moderately stressful
experiences with consistent, caring relationships.
• The brain is wired for relational connection, which
serves as a foundation for later learning.
• Healthy early development depends on nurturing
and dependable relationships.
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Early Brain Development - The Program for Infant/Toddler Care