Parent-Child Programs Holds Promise Parenting is one of the most rewarding activities one can do, but it is also one of the most challenging. As the saying goes, children don’t come with instruction manuals. Therefore, many parents welcome additional tools that can support their children’s healthy development. Increasingly, scientific evidence on child development is revealing […]
Prolonged activation of the stress response in children can have damaging effects on the development of the brain. The stress hormones that flood the brain during prolonged stressful periods can affect the development of brain cells and connections between them, the size of certain brain areas and, ultimately, development of healthy brain architecture. Because these brain areas are important for learning, memory, and emotional processing, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to problems with thinking, memory, and emotional processing as well as increased risk for later health problems.
At the University of Oregon’s Brain Development Laboratory, we study attention in children as young as 3 by measuring the brain’s response to sounds as we ask children to shift their “spotlight” of attention from one side to the other. Shifting this spotlight of attention markedly changes the brain’s response to events in the environment – the brain produces a response to an attended stimulus that is twice as large as the response when it is unattended, and this boost occurs within 1/10 of a second! The ability to focus attention is critical in lifelong learning. We have shown that this enhanced brain response is not present in some young children who are at-risk for academic problems.
Unlike some other animals, the brain of a human infant is very immature and isn’t fully adult-like until 25 years after birth. This long period of development means there is a lot of time for children’s experiences to shape their brains, and this is exactly what research has found: In fact, we now know that the architecture of the brain is dependent on the experiences children have. This is called “neuroplasticity,” which refers to how “plastic” or changeable by experience the brain is.