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The Dana Guide to Brain Health

The Free Press, January 2003
Floyd E. Bloom, M.D., M. Flint Beal, M.D., and David J. Kupfer, M.D., editors
Foreward by William Safire
Contributing writer (prenatal and early childhood brain development; brain/body loop)

Most people do not realize just how early a child's brain begins to develop - and how long it continues to mature after birth. The process starts between the second and third week of fetal development, and continues well into early adulthood. No other organ in the human body takes so long to develop as the brain does, or goes through as many changes. This unique growth process explains the brain's complexity and amazing activities, as well as its vulnerability to injury.

At birth, your baby's brain is already one fourth the weight of an adult's, even though his or her whole body weighs less than a tenth of an adult's. This is the marvelous result of prenatal development, when billions of neurons form, axons grow, and synapses start to connect neurons.

All of those cells and links are sometimes referred to as the brain's "hard wiring." But that phrase implies that your baby's brain at birth is equivalent to a circuit board in a radio, ready to be plugged in and played. It might be wiser to compare a newborn's brain to early roots in a spring garden. The environment, the human version of sun and rain, will play an important role in how your child's brain actually grows and the unique talents and personality traits he or she develops.