Early experiences affect the development of brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behaviour, and health.
Brains are built over time, from the bottom up.
The basic architecture of the brain is constructed through a process that begins early in life and continues into adulthood.
Simpler circuits come first and more complex brain circuits build on them later.
Brain architecture is comprised of billions of connections between individual neurons across different areas of the brain.
These connections enable lightning-fast communication among neurons that specialise in different kinds of brain functions. The early years are the most active period for establishing neural connections, but new connections can form throughout life and unused connections continue to be pruned.
The interactions of genes and experience shape the developing brain.
Genes provide the basic blueprint, but experiences influence how or whether genes are expressed. Together, they shape the quality of brain architecture and establish either a sturdy or a fragile foundation for all of the learning, health, and behaviour that follow.
Although genes provide the blueprint for the formation of brain circuits, these circuits are reinforced by repeated use.
A major ingredient in this developmental process is the interaction between children and their parents and other caregivers in the family or community.
In the absence of responsive caregiving—or if responses are unreliable or inappropriate—the brain’s architecture does not form as expected, which can lead to disparities in learning and behavior.
Cognitive, emotional, and social capacities are inextricably intertwined throughout the life course.
The brain is a highly integrated organ and its multiple functions operate in coordination with one another. Emotional well-being and social competence provide a strong foundation for emerging cognitive abilities, and together they are the bricks and mortar of brain architecture.
Adapted from The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.