Sunday, November 25, 2007

Brainwaves and human development

Today I attended an interesting lecture presented by Nathan Mikaere-Wallis. Nathan was presenting the latest information from the Brainwave trust. The information in this presentation was relevant to my role as a midwife and supporting women with parenting skills. It also is relevant to my role a midwifery lecturer and finally it has potential to influence my own personal learning. Following is my interpretation of the important points I remember.(I have tried several times to embed video in this post but it continually messes up the format of my entire blog. I have tried everything I can think of to overcome this but nothing worked. If anyone has any idea why this is happening can you please leave me a comment to let me know, thanks).

Since the 1990s knowledge of brain activity has grown in leaps and bounds due to the ability to identify brain activity while undertaking tasks with the use of technology. This has confirmed some beliefs about brain development and caused revaluation of other beliefs.

The brain stem controls reflexive needs such as breathing and heart rate. The cerebellum controls functions associated with movement, however it appears that the cerebellum my have more association with higher brain activity than had previously been thought. As humans we share three basic needs with other mammals.These are the need for survival, to procreate and to care for our young. these basic instincts are controlled in the Limbic system.

Human babies are born with some neurological pathways already in place, however many fewer than is the case for other mammals. This allows us to develop pathways after birth and adapt to our environment.

This occurs in response to a stimulus where branches reach out to each other and connections, or synapses occur.

Over the first three years of life these neurological pathways are established. Connections are made in response to stimuli. For these to become established the stimulus needs to be repeated about 90 times. Each time it is repeated the connection is strengthened with a layer of myelin sheath, an fatty insulating layer. One of the functions of breastmilk is to provide this the necessary omega fatty acids for this sheath. The stronger the sheath the stronger the connection.

Connections are created in the presence of Endorphins .
If the connections are being made and there is stress or fright Cortisol is produced. This produces the flight or fight response and causes any neural connections being made at the time to be destroyed to allow the individuals survival mechanism to kick in. Destruction of the myelin causes destruction of the neural connection.

Once a child is three year old she has the most neurological connections she will ever have. At that time the brain starts to select the connections which are being used to their potential and the others are lost.

The cerebral cortex is the centre of reasoning but this does not reach its maximum capacity until around 26 years (hence the risk taking behaviour of youth).

I have more to write on this but it is late. I am tired, I will add more or might edit this tomorrow.


Sarah Stewart said...

So what's the implications of all this, Carolyn, for us as midwives?

Sarah Stewart said...

you might be interested in this:

Sitting in Silence said...

Very Very interesting...Thank you.

Agatha said...

I can't wait to read more about this Carolyn!

Carolyn McIntosh said...

Thank you for your interest in this. Sorry it has taken me so long to add more. I hope that this is useful to you. Science seems to be confirming much of what most midwives have known to be true about baby care for a long time. Nice to have the evidence growing for breast feeding and attentive care of babies.

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