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Brain Research, Infant Learning, and Child Care Curriculum

by J. Ronald Lally
May/June 1998
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/brain-research-infant-learning-and-child-care-curriculum/5012146/

During the last ten years, brain research has taught us many valuable lessons about how infants learn and why early experience is so critical to their development. We now know that the brain is not fully formed at birth and that genes and experience interact to influence the brain's form and function. We know that engaging in rich language experiences with significant others influences vocabulary and quality of speech, and is correlated with later academic functioning. We have learned that participation in an environment filled with interesting sights, sounds, and people enriches a child's schemes of thought and action.

We have also learned that it is not only the intellectual and language functions of the brain that are significantly influenced by early experience. Early experience also significantly influences social and emotional brain functions. It has been shown that lack of early nurturance and prolonged stress can set emotional thermostats affecting brain functioning, and sometimes even increasing the secretion of cortisol, lowering levels of serotonin and elevating levels of noradrenaline. It has been hypothesized that lack of nurturance in infancy can lead to depression, loss of impulse control, and heightened aggression in later life.

In the wake of widespread distribution of these findings, ...

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