Prenatal brain development
Prenatal brain development is a very intricate process. How the human brain goes from just a few brain cells to the most sophisticated object known to man in only a few months is incredible.
The nervous system starts out as a tiny, flat structure that grows rapidly and takes on a more complex form that eventually becomes the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the nervous system.
Fetal brain growth - most crucial months
Every single day of gestation is important for organ development and many important events take place during the first few weeks of your baby's brain development.
The mother is often unaware of the pregnancy at this time and when she knows she is pregnant the fetus can be surprisingly developed, with rudimentary forms of most organs already starting to take shape.
The brain keeps developing all throughout the pregnancy, and during the last 3 months (the third trimester) it changes a lot. It grows considerably and the characteristic grooves and ridges are formed.17
It is at this time, the third trimester, that a supply of DHA is most crucial. This is because DHA is a structural component of cell membranes and the brain has 100 billion cells by the time the child is born.
Infant brain development
At birth, a child already has all its brain cells, but the cells have not formed very many connections.
During the following years the child's brain cells make trillions of connections with one another, forming a structure that will live with the child throughout its life.
Synaptic pruning - optimizing the brain
Interestingly, the connections between brain cells in children peak just before their first birthday. After that they brain cell connections are pruned, like a gardener would prune a tree, leaving more efficient neural pathways afterwards.18
This is one of the reasons children are so receptive to learning new things, and as they gain experience and age their nervous system becomes more disciplined and efficient, so to speak.
The synaptic pruning process slows down considerably around puberty and that's why it's important to stimulate the brain a lot before that time arrives and the ability to build new neural pathways (and learn new things) is diminished.