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Language Development - A Key to Lifelong Learning

by Clarissa Willis
May/June 1998
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/language-development-a-key-to-lifelong-learning/5012163/

Imagine the first time a child looks at you and smiles, or says "mama" or "dada." Babies come into the world wired to learn communication. Their brains are prepared to begin receiving and processing information immediately. In fact, even before a child is born, his brain has laid the groundwork for how he will process, develop, and categorize information.

Research by Dr. Carla Shatz, professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that the active brain is composed of more than one trillion nerve cells, or neurons. As a baby's brain grows and develops, these neurons will join together to form synapses. Synapses are the paths or avenues that allow individual nerve cells to connect with each other. As synapses are formed, they join together to form highly complex pathways. This ultimately results in an immense, complex, and interconnected wiring system, or brain circuitry (Willis, 1997).

As a child grows and develops, his brain creates many more synapses than he will possibly use. Which ones become permanent and which ones are discarded depends on the positive reinforcement a child receives from his environment. The more synapses are reinforced, the more permanent they become. If synapses are not reinforced, then the ...

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