Child brain development

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.

 


 

Baby brain training

LANGUAGE

Developing children's linguistic ability is arguably one of the more interactive types of stimulations. You can do this by actively pointing at things and by repeating sounds and words.

COLORS AND FORMS

Young children don’t see the world as clearly adults do. Bright colors and deep contrasts are sure to catch their eye. 

EYE CONTACT

Making eye contact with your child helps it develop the capacity for interpersonal connections.

SOUNDS AND MUSIC

Babies use their hearing for several months in the womb before seeing the light of day. Newborns are therefore very open to being stimulated by sounds in their environment.19

Brain cells need the right compounds

Brain cells, like other cells, require specific compounds to function properly.

DHA, a type of Omega 3 fatty acid serves as an important building block in cell membranes and promotes the healthy development of the child's central nervous system.

Giving your child enough DHA is therefore a great way to promote brain health.

1Innis, S. (2005). Essential fatty acid transfer and fetal development. Placenta, S70-S75.
2Jensen, C. V. (2010). Effects of early maternal docosahexaenoic acid intake on neuropsychological status and visual acuity. The Journal of Pediatrics, 157, 900-905.
3Smuts, C. H. (2003, March). A randomized trial of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 101(3), 469-479.
4Brenna, J. L. (2009). Background paper on fat and fatty acid requirements during pregnancy and lactation. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, 55, 97-122.
5Simopoulos, A. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega6-omega3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine and pharmacotherapy, 56, 365-379.
6Simopoulos, A. (2006). Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega 6- omega3 ratio and genetic variation- nutritional implications for chronic diseases. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 60, 502-507.
7Innis, S. (2007). Dietary (n-3) fatty acids and brain development. The Journal of Nutrition, 855-859.
8Hughes, T. B. (2005). New paradigms for supporting the resilience of marine ecosystems. Trends in ecology and evolution, 380-386.
9Ramón, R. B. (2009). Fish consumption during pregnancy, prenatal mercury exposure, and anthropometric measures at birth in a prospective mother-infant cohort study in Spain. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90, 1047-1055.
10Arterburn, L. H. (2006). Distribution, interconversion, and dose-response of n-3 fatty acids in humans. Am J Clin Nutr, 1467S-1476S

11Jacobson, J. J.-E. (2008). Beneficial effects of a polyunsaturated fatty acid on infant development: Evidence from the Inuit of Arctic Quebec. J Pediatr, 152, 356-64.
12Forsyth, J. W. (2003). Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in infant formula and blood pressure in later childhood: follow up of a randomised controlled trial. BMJ, 326, 953-955.
13Bossart, G. (2006). Marine mammals as sentinel species for oceans and human health. Oceanography, 19(2), 134-137.
14Charuku, S. M.-D.-K. (2003). Higher maternal plasma docosahexaenoic acid during pregnancy is associcated with more mature neonatal sleep-state patterning. Am J Clin Nutr, 608-613.
15Hanson, L. K. (2002). The role of breastfeeding in prevention of neonatal infection. Semin Neonatol, 275-281.
16Wagner, C. G. (2008). Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 1142-1152.
17Prayer, D. K. (2005). MRI of normal fetal brain development. European Journal of radiology, 199-216.
18Paolicelli, R. C. (2011). Synaptic pruning by microglia is necessary for normal brain development. Science, 1456-1458.
19Hepper, P. S. (1994). Development of fetal hearing. Archives of disease in childhood., 71, F81-F87.
20Hoffman, D. T. (2004). Maturation of visual acuity is accelerated in breast-fed term infants fed baby food containing DHA-enriched egg yolk. The Journal of Nutrition, 134(9), 2307-2313.