Love Makes Your Baby’s Brain Bigger… Neglect, Abuse and Trauma Kill Billions of Brain Cells, Neurologist Says

November 3, 2017 at 5:31 pm




X-ray images show the brain of a loved 3-year-old is twice as big as the brain of a neglected 3-year-old

X-ray images of two 3-year-old brains originally published in The Telegraph

What’s the difference between the 3-year-old brain on the left and the 3-year-old brain on the right?

Love.




The child whose brain appears on the left had a caregiver who consistently loved, cared for, responded to and interacted positively with him.

The child whose brain appears on the right was neglected, ignored and abused.

“The child on the right will grow into an adult who is less intelligent, less able to empathize with others, more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crime … and to develop mental and other serious health problems,” says an article published in The Telegraph in 2012.

Apparently in 2012, neurologists were just “beginning” to understand exactly how a baby’s interaction with his mother determined how his brain grows, or doesn’t grow, the article says.

One of the leading neurologists in this field is UCLA psychiatry professor Allan Schore.

The growth of the baby’s brain “literally requires positive interaction between mother and infant,” Schore says in the video below. “The development of cerebral circuits depends on it.”

Schore emphasizes the first two years of life as the most crucial for brain development, as 80 percent of the brain cells a person will ever have are manufactured during that period.

From the beginning of third trimester of pregnancy to the 24th month of life, the human brain more than doubles in size, but only if it gets the “right” positive experiences, Schore says.

“There is something the human brain needs in terms of contact with other humans for it to grow,” Schore says.

Throughout the first two years of life brain cells and their wiring are established – closing down connections that are seldom or never used and reinforcing the ones that are often used.

“The connections that are not used die off,” he says. “It’s a use it or lose it situation. Cells that fire together wire together and do not die together.”

“The brain does not continue to grow and grow and grow. It organizes, then disorganizes, then reorganizes. The disorganization of the brain — the massive death of billions of neurons and disconnection of synapses — is part of how the brain is growing as it’s reorganizing.”

The hormones generated by the relationship between the infant and mother (or primary caregiver) affect the way the genes are encoded.

“We know now for a fact that the endorphins regulate genes positively,” Schore said. “We also know that cortisol, a stress hormone, also regulates genes.”

This is why emotionally enriched (positive) environments are key for infants, he says.

Joining with the child to “co-regulate high levels of positive emotion” like joy, interest and excitement during the first two years literally sets the tone for the rest of their lives.

RELATED: Co-sleeping Contributes to Optimal Brain Development