What are the most important changes in the brain after birth?
Most babies are born with only survival reflexes developed in the lower neural system of the brain. The cerebral cortex, or the part of the brain that is responsible for thoughts, feelings, memories and voluntary actions is still at a very nascent stage of development at the time of birth. So, if you've ever wondered why a newborn sleeps for upto 20 hours a day, it's because it is conserving important metabolic energy for the process of brain development. As the cerebral cortex grows, your baby begins to hit developmental milestones that include colour vision, grasp and eventually even separation anxiety. A newborn's brain also contains very little myelin, a dense part of the brain that is necessary for clear and efficient electrical transmission. Myelination of the cerebral cortex begins in the primary motor and sensory areas-this is where your child receives her first input from her five senses and eventually also the region of the brain that control more complex functions such as thoughts, memories and feelings.
Does brain development in a child slow down with age?
The period right from the time of gestation (when your baby is in the womb) until about 2 years is when the most important developments occur. A child's senses report to the brain about her environment and experiences and this input stimulates neural activity. So the more it receives, the stronger the brain development activity becomes. During the first few years of a child's life-the time she has excess synapses (the connectors between neurons in the brain)-she can capture experiences more efficiently. This ability will come down significantly over time as the brain reaches maturity.
What are some of the brain development milestones a child reaches in the first year of her life?
A significant part of brain development occurs in the first year of a child's life. The cerebellum (the part responsible for motor skills development) triples in size. By three months, the child's vision, power of recognition and even memory skills have developed significantly. Language circuits also get consolidated in the first year, influenced strongly by the language an infant hears. The child's cognitive abilities also develop significantly in the first year. The child moves from the reflexive stage to having the ability to grab objects and pass them from one hand to the other, find hidden objects and even remember objects that are no longer in sight.