Dr. Goh | How does the brain grow from conception through the first few years of life?

Brain development starts really at the time of conception. So the cells that will eventually form the early brain, and give rise to all of the new cells that will be part of the brain are there right from the moment of conception. And then the process of brain growth and change is happening in a really dynamic way for the fetus. So during pregnancy the brain is undergoing tremendous, massive changes-- new cells are being formed. Those cells are differentiating into different cell types. They're moving to different places in the brain where they'll set up the basic architecture of the brain and networks are already beginning to form.

We know that in period of pregnancy and just those nine months, the brain develops from just a few cells to a hundred billion neurons.

So the transition from being in the womb to being out in the real world is an incredible one. The newborn is encountering things for the first time, seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, sensing. And because the nervous system and the newborn is still very young, not yet matured, a lot of the stimulus in the surrounding environment is taken in, in a pretty unique way. For example, a vision is not as clear for the newborn. They can't see things with the clarity that they will later on. And sounds are perceived differently, and they're also novel. So a lot of novel stimuli is being encountered by the nervous system for the first time.

And then within the first four to five years of life, it almost doubles in size. So within that period of time, there's just tremendous growth change and development occurring in the brain. And the foundational networks that will serve the child for years and years to come are being established in those first few years. So there's just a wonderful opportunity to nurture and set a positive foundation for ongoing brain development.

When I think about the potential in a child’s brain, it really is in a sense mind-blowing because the skills and abilities, the knowledge, what can grow in emerge from that brain is really tremendous. And when we think about the potential of a child's brain, is it the same for every child? It's not, every child is unique and different, but the ways in which the brain can grow and change and develop and the variety of different skills that can be built-- that in my view is consistent. And so while each child, of course will be their own unique individual there is potential for just growth and learning and development in so many different respects. So, for me, the potential housed within a child's brain is one of the most fascinating, exciting, and really miraculous things about about being a human being.

Key Takeaways:

  • Baby's brain grows rapidly during pregnancy and in the first three years of life
  • healthynest is here to help you protect and enrich your child's brain during this remarkable time

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