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Human Brain Development From Ages 0 To 3

posted Apr 12, 2018, 3:28 AM by Dr. Curtis Cripe   [ updated Apr 12, 2018, 3:29 AM ]

There’s an incredible period of development that occurs in a child’s brain from birth to age 3, including the production of over a million neural connections every second. This development is influenced by numerous factors, from the child’s relationships to environment.

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At birth, a child’s brain already has about all of the neurons it will ever possess. The brain doubles in size during the first year, and then by age 3 would have reached 80 percent of its adult volume. Synapses, the brain’s communication specialists, are formed during these years faster than at any other time. At age 2 or 3, the brain would have up to twice as many synapses as it will have in adulthood.

Brain development can be heavily influenced by both genes and external elements: genes fuel mass synapse formation, while the environment fine-tunes the brain and assists in making decisions about the pathways to keep and dispose of. For one, the more often an idea or skill is heard or practiced, the more the synapse is strengthened. This means that walking and language are easily inculcated in a child’s brain.

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Since it’s a period for rapidly creating and pruning out synapses, the ages 0 to 3 is a critical time for learning. To create lasting skills such as a second language, a baby’s exposure and practice need to be constant. An enriched environment for brain development can be supported through social interaction, a healthy diet, physical activity, introducing new experiences, and avoiding toxic stress, to name a few.

Dr. Curtis Cripe is a multidisciplinary neuroengineer who has authored multiple peer-reviewed papers and two chapters in field-related books in behavioral medicine and neuroscience. Read more about his field on this page.