When in Life is the Brain Most Vulnerable?

Nature v. Nurture. We’ve all argued one or the other before. But studies are showing that when it comes to the brain, nurture becomes overwhelmingly important during two distinct stages of our lives. The first stage is infamously known as the “terrible twos.”  During this tender period, when the brain is undergoing a growth spurt in both language and physical coordination, traumatic environmental factors can reverberate profoundly later in life. One longitudinal study followed Romanian orphans. These children were well-fed/clothed, but for fear of spreading germs, were never cuddled or played with. Unsurprisingly, the study revealed that their adult brains were smaller and their limbic systems (the portion that controls emotion) were out of whack.  The second stage is often known as the “wonder years,” thanks to Fred Savage. During these teen years, the brain’s frontal lobes, especially the pre-frontal cortex (the areas of the brain responsible for complex thought), grow rapidly. Again, studies show that traumatic environmental stimuli (think divorce, death in the family, etc.) focused in this time period have tremendous effects on the brain that will manifest themselves during adulthood. During both periods of neural vulnerability, the key is stability.  It’s something to think about, especially for the parents and teachers out there. Click through for the complete article.

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