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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wiring of the Brain

“Wiring of the brain” refers to the explosive burst of the connections between the various synapses of the brain cells after birth. Synapses are the telephone lines that enable brain cells to communicate. Trillions are formed during the First 2 years of life. It is believed that they are overproduced to guarantee that enough are available to form neural networks for vision, speech, thinking, emotions, and other mental capabilities.

Some parts of the brain (example, the visual cortex) are wired rapidly in the First year of life and need little coaxing other than exposure to people, objects, and movement to develop. The auditory cortex, which processes sound, explodes with new connections after birth and maintains this high level of activity until about age 12. Many experts now believe this is the best time for learning music and foreign languages.

The prefrontal cortex, which is involved in processing higher thoughts and motivation, undergoes an initial growth spurt after birth, but it does not appear to be fully developed until early adolescence. This may be the best time to teach such things as calculus. The great explosion of synapses after birth enables the brain to learn how to make it work from the experiences it encounters.

Synapses that are not activated by sounds, touch, sight, smell, or taste are discarded. Nearly half of the connections eventually are pruned away when they are not incorporated into neural networks.

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