What Is Brain Development?
Brain development is a process that starts at three weeks after conception. It is a life-long occurrence that continues throughout the adolescent years and into adulthood.
The brain development process is contributed by:
- Gene expression
- Environmental input
These two types of processes cooperate to support* the series of different events that define brain development. Gene expression and environmental input are important for every part of brain development, and their disruption would fundamentally change the outcome.
Even though the expression of genes and environmental input are essential, they do not determine the outcome. Therefore, brain development is defined as a very complex chain of events (dynamic and adaptive) that happen through the entire process. The aim of the process is to develop the emergence and differentiation of neural structures and functions.
During the embryonic period, basal changes take place:
- Establishment of the rudimentary structures of the brain and central nervous system.
- Definition of the major compartments of the central and peripheral nervous system.
- Division of cells in the forebrain (prosencephalon) part, which leads to the foundation of the cerebral hemispheres.
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Between the fifth and twentieth weeks of the embryonic period, 50,000 to 100,000 new brain cells are created each second.
Neuron production begins 42 days after conception, and billions of neurons are created in the brain. Formation of neurons is completed by the midgestation period.
When the production of neurons is over, they migrate to different parts of the brain. There, they connect with other neurons. That connection leads to the establishment of neural networks. It is still not known how neurons navigate, and their migration is still subjected to numerous researchers.
Prenatal Brain Development Also Includes:
- Formation of Synapses – Influenced by temperature, pressure and actions that involve the fetus (beginning to hear, kicking, sucking thumb).
- Myelination of Neurons – Begins in the spinal cord, three months after conception. However, myelination in the brain starts six months after conception and continues throughout puberty and into the adult years. Myelination is one of the main causes of the brain’s growth.
- Completion of the thalamocortical pathway.
After the baby is born, the brain still continues to develop. Firstly, the brain’s size increases* up to 90% of the adult volume by the age of six.
The timeline for brain development looks like this:
- During the childhood years, myelination continues and neurons are still migrating to their positions. Once they settle, they are only able to perform certain actions.
- Throughout adolescence, the brain still continues to change. This is the period when the final myelination takes place. At the age of fourteen, the brain reaches the size of an adult brain. The density of synapses declines, but their formation continues.
- In adulthood, synapses still continue their formation but the production of neurons is limited.
How Does Food Affect The Brain?
Nutrition is important for brain development. During the prenatal period, nutrients regulate the process of brain development.
The reason nutrition is important during the prenatal and postnatal period is that it is essential for establishing cognitive, motor, and socio-emotional skills. Malnutrition can cause cognitive, behavioral, and productivity irregularities throughout the lifetime. Also, malnutrition can affect physical growth and lower IQ.
Adequate nutrition belongs to the process of environmental input on brain development. An environment with poor quality results in neurodevelopmental impairment.
Intake of specific nutrients during the early stages of brain development can have a positive effect on:
- Neuron proliferation
- Axon and dendrite growth
- Synapse formation, pruning and function
- Neuron apoptosis (programmed cell death).
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How Seafood Can Impact Brain Development?
Generally, seafood is a good source of protein, iron and zinc. These are crucial nutrients for a baby’s growth. Omega 3 belongs to the Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) group that is essential for brain development.
The deficit of Omega-3 fatty acid can lead to:
- Deficit in cortical grey matter maturation
- Neurocognitive deficit – applies to attention. People diagnosed with ADHD and schizophrenia exhibit a decrease* in grey matter maturation.
Omega-3, also known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is an important part of optimal brain function.
Some of the benefits of DHA include:
- Increases* the grey matter of the brain
- Of high importance for the function of brain cell membranes
- Improves* IQ.
However, some types of seafood contain high levels of mercury. Methylmercury is a neurotoxin that impairs the functions of nerve tissue.
Mercury accumulates in the bloodstream and damages a baby’s brain and nervous system.
High consumption of mercury leads to:
- Decreases* the maturation and migration of brain cells.
- Prevents the formation of axons and dendrites.
- Prevents the growth of axons and dendrites.
- Decreases* the transmission of impulses across the synapse.
- Induces apoptosis.
- Causes slow response to sound.
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Must Watch – Fish is Brain Food
Every type of food has a direct impact on the brain. Seafood has many benefits, like increasing* the area of grey matter, improving* memory and IQ. Omega-3 is one of the crucial nutrients for every developing brain; it is also an important ingredient that can revitalize one’s brain. Although it is widely believed that mercury is extremely dangerous (especially for the brain development process), it is not as threatening as previously believed. If a large amount of fish is not eaten, there is no real threat to the brain’s functions.
If the seafood is not contaminated, it is recommended to consume it due to numerous benefits related to brain development.