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An early headstart – your brain in childhood

An early headstart – your brain in childhood

When you were in your mother’s womb – quite possibly before she even knew that you were there – your brain started to form. At first, a flat strip of tissue, along what is now your spine, rolled up lengthways to form a tube. Then the top of that tube started to swell, and this is where your brain began.

As you developed in the womb, you were busy making billions of neurons, the long cells in the brain that form connections with each other and carry important information to make your brain work. 

By the time you were born, most of your neurons were already present, which shows how important pregnancy is for brain development. But there was still plenty of development to come. After you were born, your brain quickly got bigger. During that first year of life, your brain doubled in size! 

As a baby and toddler your senses developed – touch, sight, taste, vision, hearing – and your motor control and balance improved over time so that you could sit, stand, crawl, walk, run and climb. You also learned to speak and feed yourself. These new talents meant your brain was flooded with information about your environment and your neurons formed or pruned back connections – every time your parents sang to you or offered you a new food, every time you crawled along the floor or went on a swing in the playground, your brain was being shaped.

You also learned things quickly. You probably don’t remember much of it because the memory processes weren’t developed enough until about age four, but those early-life experiences drove your brain development. So make sure you play with and talk to any babies and children in your life. You are helping their brains to grow! Illustration: healthy ageing

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