What causes brain imbalance? Is an imbalance preventable?
Before we can talk about how to prevent brain imbalance, we first need to understand a bit about how the brain develops. The brain starts growing into what we know it to look like (folded gray matter) at 40 days after conception (usually before you even know you’re pregnant). The human brain weighs only 12 oz at birth, which is only 25% of its final size. However, this small size means nothing because it has about 100 billion cells which is more than the stars in the galaxy!! Neurons sprout in-utero at a rate of about 250,000/ minute! Is your mind blown yet??
At birth the brain is the only organ that is not fully formed. The brain has only enough connections to control breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, metabolism and other vital functions. Synaptic connections are what make learning, brain development, possible. Growth of synapses are dependent on 2 things: Fuel (nutrition & oxygen) and Stimulation (positive or negative). Fuel alone does not make the brain grow and develop; STIMULATION IS KEY!! Without stimulation the brain will not grow, brain cells will actually die and degenerate. By age 10 the average child will lose ½ of the trillion synapses that existed at birth. USE IT OR LOSE IT!!
By age 2, a child’s brain is about 80% developed. Let that sink in for a minute… 80 %!! That is an amazing rate of growth in the first 2 years! This is the most rapid period of growth the brain will ever experience, by age 6 the brain is only to 90% of its development. Stimulation and nutrition during early childhood is of the utmost importance for proper brain development!! It’s not only about the amount of stimulation but also the quality of stimulation. Ever heard the “rule” of no screen time before the age of 2? This is the reason… 80%!
So, as a baby grows, milestones are the markers of synaptic development and signs of normal neural growth. Contrary to popular belief, there is a very tight window for milestones to be met. (I think we all know what milestones our kids met on time and which ones they missed. You can easily google developmental milestones on your own because this could be a whole other blog.) The brain develops in stages starting from the bottom up and then the right brain up until about the age of 3. The right brain is the intuitive side. In infancy (think newborn to 3mo) connections are being made in the brain simply by those reflexive movements. Their brains make new neural pathways simply by suckling or moving their hands. This is why people who have a good understanding of child development choose not to swaddle their new-born. The right brain helps kids interpret their world and learn to walk. What I’m really trying to say is that body and brain are co-dependent. The brain is dependent on the body to provide the stimulation necessary for growth and development as much as the body is dependent on the brain to do everything else. If a child’s movement is restricted during infancy, the brain will not be stimulated, milestones will not be met and the makings for an imbalance are on the horizon.
Ok so let’s talk proper stimulation for a developing brain…
The brain can produce a certain amount of stimulus by itself, think dreaming, but otherwise it needs proper stimulation to grow and develop properly; these natural stimuli are:
-Light -Sound or Vibration – Odor -Taste -Temperature -Touch -Pressure or gravity
Here is an example of proper stimuli- you’re letting your toddler walk down a nice dirt path while your family is on a hike. Your toddler sits down in the dirt and begins to run their fingers through it. They might put those dirty little fingers in their mouth. They stop to look around and they see the light shining through the trees and they hear birds chirping. They can smell the pine-y scent of the forest. (Gravity is always in play.) This is the kind of natural stimuli that kids need. You cannot get this type of stimulation from watching a screen or touching a screen.
Next important thing to consider when you’re trying to prevent brain imbalance is:
- frequency of the stimulation (taking them for one hike isn’t going to cut it.)
- duration of the stimulation (are you letting them experience it fully until THEY are done?)
- intensity of the stimulation (the number of senses being stimulated which determines how fast THEY are done.)
How do you stimulate your kids? Where do you take them? What can you do at home? Share on our FB page and brainstorm with us!