Brain development is based on complex interactions between the environment and our genes. Brain development actually starts to occur from our mother’s uterus and eventually billions of neurons are produced in a few months. Dendrites and axons grow, while synapses or connections are formed. These mechanisms are eventually hardwired and this is all determined by our genetics. Once these connections are completed, we eventually have dependent neural mechanism. Whether these connections are eliminated or strengthened could be determined by whether there are activities within them. It is clear that experience and environment could have an effect on our brain development. Babies who live in improper environment could become physically malnourished and have poorly developed brain. However, they could start to experience great development progress when placed in adoptive environment with good quality education and nourishment. Human is highly adaptive and there’s a possibility for us to outsmart our genes. There have been many researches associated with intelligence, school and genes. It is true that genes have an effect on our basic intelligence level, but experience also has essential factors.
In reality, infants have more neurons than full grown adults and we have fewer neurons due to a process called the synaptic pruning. It is a regulatory process that reduces the number of excess neurons by weeding out any weaker synapses. When we don’t use a group of synapses, they become weak and this shows that early learning process is essential for our brain development. The critical period of brain development is actually until the age 20 and during early stages of lives, we are more sensitive to specific stimuli. In fact, infants who don’t see light six month after birth could have degenerated vision later in life. Many have said that everything happens before we are 5 years old. It is believed that it is better to learn about all major cognitive skills before we are 5 years old. However, it is shown in brain imaging studies that our brain doesn’t stop developing until we are 20 years old. In adults, the frontal lobes of their brain are the last ones to mature and they are associated with strategizing, planning, organization and judgment.
One common question is that whether there are things that can boost academic performance among children. As an example, it is discovered that arts may boost test scores among children. It is clear that arts can improve our attention and this will in turn boost our cognition. Many parents prefer to play Mozart in the nursery room to make their children smarter. In reality, the so-called Mozart Effect isn’t supported by valid scientific evidence. It is true that music can have long-term positive effects on brain development, but this only if children actively play musical instruments, instead of just listening to them. Although commercial video games are often associated with violence and aggression, some educational ones can actually help children boost they brain functions, such as attention to details, hand-eye coordination and rapid thinking process.