Neuroscience research shows that in order for communities to prosper, they must ensure that their youngest members – babies, children and teens – have the opportunity to develop healthy brains. While it’s often thought that people are born with a healthy brain, a brain is, in fact, built. Each and every interaction, from early childhood into adulthood, helps to shape the brain. Positive interactions with parents and caregivers are essential to help build a strong foundation. Negative experiences such as abuse, exposure to violence, neglect, poverty, and parental substance use or separation can derail brain development. In order to develop a healthy brain, we must first understand the essential parts of the brain that are responsible for healthy development.
When we can understand how the brain develops and how it works, we can further understand the impact that positive and negative interactions and trauma have on the brain.
The Frontal Lobe
The area located in the front of the brain is responsible for our executive functioning skills. These include:
- Speech and spoken word
The area in the middle of the brain helps to manage our memories and emotions. These include:
- Long-term memory
- Emotions that generate action (rage, panic and terror)
The base of the brain helps to manage our bodily functions and physical reflexes. These include:
- Bodily function (heart rate, temperature and respiration)
- Motor control
If the brain is underdeveloped or experiencing stress, parts of it can shut down. In these cases, the brain has to rely on different areas responsible for very different functions. This causes irrational emotional responses and irregular behavior. This may be the reason why some children, teens and adults exhibit dysregulated emotional behavior like acting out, fighting and noncompliance.
When all three parts of the brain are fully developed, a healthy brain is built, allowing youth the ability to manage stressful situations, interact well socially and exhibit good behavior. Communities, parents and caregivers can all ensure that children and teens have the opportunity to build healthy brains by having positive interactions with them, being a role model, providing guidance and creating a safe, nurturing environment in which they can grow.
Learn more about how Niles is helping to further neuroscience research by visiting www.kvc.org/brain.