Synaptic Exuberance!

Babies are born with all the brain cells they need. But it’s the connections between these cells that are important. During a period of what scientists call “synaptic exuberance”, babies literally develop as many as ten to twenty thousand connections per second.

Robert Krulwich, host of NPR’s so-called “Sciency Blog“, examines synaptic exuberance, as demonstrated by 9-month old Charles-Edward Vachon in a creative time-capture video:

More interesting, perhaps, than this rapid development of neural connections early in life is that, as Krulwich says, we overdo it. As we approach our teenage years, our brains start to prune these connections, focusing on quality over quantity based on our early life experiences. The brain, Krulwich quotes Dr. Harry Chugani, “allows for a fine-tuning of neuronal circuits, based on early exposure and environmental nurturing, that makes the neuronal architecture of each person unique.”

Chugani, Chief of the division of Pediatric Neurology at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and professor of pediatrics, neurology, and radiology at Wayne State University in Detroit, has extensively studied the developing brain. His article, Fine Tuning the Baby Brain, which appears on the Dana Foundation Web site, digs deeper into questions of why the baby brain consumes twice as much energy as an adult brain, and how the brain continues to remodel itself throughout life. Definitely worth a read.

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