In this article, we have put together a simple guide to understand the brain organ and the science behind development of baby’s brain. This should help you if you are recently pregnant and looking to get basic understanding behind development of your bub’s brain.
What is the Brain Organ?
The brain is the most complex organ in human body. It serves as the center of our nervous system with the cerebral cortex containing closely 15-33 billion nerve cells called neurons. Each of the neurons is connected to thousands of other neurons by the links called synapses, structures that permit a neuron to transmit a chemical or electrical signal to another neuron.
In addition to cerebrum or cortex, the human brain comprises other important parts: the brain stem, and the cerebellum (little brain). The brain is always active, even when we are asleep. Our brain works as our body’s command center that controls all the other functions of our body. In other words, our brain is the source of the wherewithal that makes who we are.
How Does the Brain Develop?
Brain development in children undergoes an astonishing period of progression from the third gestational week (the third week after conception) to the third year of life: more than a million of neural connections grow in every second of this early stage development. The basic structures that become the brain and the spinal cord form between the third and fourth weeks of embryo’s life.
A rut running along the length of the embryo folds up to make the neural tube. Three different sections start to develop at the foundation end of the tube, which will later grow into the fore-brain, mid-brain and hind-brain. The brain of the embryo then expands and fills with fluid.
By the end of the prenatal period the major neural networks are developed.
What Happens During Fetal Development Phase?
Fetal stage of prenatal development lasts from week eight to birth. Eight weeks old organism is no longer called embryo, but fetus. During the eighth week of prenatal life brain development in children fully takes off. Development of the hind brain, responsible for regulating heartbeat, breathing and concerned muscle movements begins during this week. By the week nine the nervous system is fairly developed for appropriate functioning.
Brain development in children in the next few weeks is very fast, forming 250,000 neurons each minute. The spinal cord is clearly defined and the spinal nerves begin to stretch out from the spinal cord.
During the week seventeen, a barrier made of a substance called ‘myelin’ forms around the spinal cord to protect it. Centers for breathing are fully developed and the baby develops sensitivity to light. At this stage, the brain is growing rapidly.
Throughout the nineteenth gestational week fetal brain is capable of forming millions of motor neurons which enables baby to develop and perform muscle movements willingly. Furthermore, the fore-brain develops into left and right cerebral hemispheres of the brain. The neurons essential for the processing of all the senses are developing speedily as well.
The stages of brain development in children after twentieth gestational week characterize further rapid growth of nerve cells that begin to join to form a complete nervous system. They are now creating complex connections with the upper brain and the entire body. This part of development carries out until the age of 5 or 6. At this phase, the brain begins to regulate all body functions.
The brain development in children during the third trimester (week 29-40) phase includes its further growth in size and functions. The brain, along with the lungs is the last organ to completely develop and by the end of the third trimester this process is finalized.
A newborn’s brain is only one-quarter the size of an adult’s and continues to develop throughout first years of a child’s life.