Human beings develop in 4 different aspects of growth: Social, Physical, Intellectual, and Emotional. The areas are all interconnected, so when one is affected, it may influence the others.
Intellectual development refers to the development of a person’s mental and thinking abilities.
Brain Growth and Development
At birth, the brain is one-fourth its adult weight. At six months, the brain has grown to half its adult weight. At age two, the brain is three-fourths adult size and weight. Females have a physically smaller brain, but 11% more neurons than males.
The brain is made up of nerve cells called neurons, the majority of which were present at birth. Neurons located in the various lobes or segments of the brain are task specific. This means certain neurons located in certain areas of the brain are responsible for specific tasks.
Neurons are hooked together with varying numbers and kinds of connections called synapses (a neuron and it’s synapses are shown at right). The number of connections results from inherited growth patterns first, and then environmental stimuli and challenge. New learning exercises the brain, causing the blood supply to increase, and leading to a greater supply of oxygen to the brain.
The number of connections, or synapses, determine a person’s capacity to learn. The more synapses, the greater the capacity for learning.
Limitations to Learning
A window of opportunity is a critical period between birth and about the age of 10, in which the brain connections reach their peak. After that time, the brain starts eliminating inactive neurons. It is imperative that the child’s brain is provided proper nourishment, stimulation, challenge, and nurturing during these early years to encourage neuron activity.
The body’s ability to create new neurons, especially after the age of 10, is severely limited if not impossible. If they are destroyed or eliminated, they are gone forever.
(experimental and controversial embryonic stem cell research offers the most promise for restoring permanently damaged or destroyed neurons)
Brain cells (neurons) and connections (synapses) , can also be destroyed by brain injury, chemical abuse, excessive levels of body chemicals produced during stress, and diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
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