Baby Brain Development
Human brains, like humans themselves, grow and develop throughout gestation. However, the brain continues to develop throughout infancy and early childhood. In fact, between conception and the age of three, there is a significant level of brain development in humans.
When a baby is born, he or she will have all of the neurons that will exist through the lifespan. However, the brain doubles in size during the first year of life, and by age three it has reached eighty percent of its adult size. Synapses, however, are formed at a faster rate during the first three years of life than at any other point. Human brains actually create far more synapses than will be needed. Most of these neural connections are gradually eliminated throughout later childhood.
The Stages of Brain Development
The first stages of a baby's brain development are heavily influenced by genetics. However, following birth, the human brain begins to be influenced by its environment. The brain undergoes a fine-tuning process as a result of the sensory input it receives. Speech, for example, is heavily influenced by the environment. The more speech a baby hears, the more synapses develop in speech areas of the brain.
This ability of a baby's brain to adapt to the environment is known as plasticity. Newborns are able to recognize do the following:
- Recognize human faces
- Distinguish their mother's voice
- Can tell the difference between happy and sad expressions