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Brain Development

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Brain Development

As one of the most complex organs within the human body, the brain develops as we age, affected by both internal and external factors. The basics of brain development in psychology focus on many different research areas.

The brain itself is the body's command centre and is vital for everyday processes. The average adult brain has 86 billion neurons. How did such a remarkable structure develop? The basics of brain development concern aspects such as the forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain, cerebellum, and medulla.

Brain development, Baby progressing in ability of baby to move from on their back to their tummy, StudySmarterInfants learn to develop skills progressively after developing brain structures, freepik.com/premium-vector

Brain Development Psychology

Brain development in psychology has undergone extensive research over the years. With the recent advancements in neuroimaging techniques, we can take a deep, accurate look into how the brain develops as we age.

How we develop during our childhood affects our later life, such as our cognitive abilities or if we develop later developmental or mental illnesses. The brain is made up of many structures responsible for different functions. Although the brain regions are responsible for different functions, they still need to work together so that you can function correctly.

Brain development meaning

The human brain begins to develop when we are fetuses and continues to develop throughout our lifespan. The early stages of brain development are the most important as this is when the brain structures are forming.

Brain development meaning is the biological process that results in the brain structures forming, and the network between these structures forms that are required for the brain and body to function.

Early brain development stages

Early brain development stages focus on the forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain, cerebellum, and medulla oblongata. The aforementioned areas differ in their functions.

Early brain development stages - the forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain

The brain starts developing pre-natally. When the fetus is around three or four weeks old, a neural tube develops in the brain, and this tube is split into three sections: the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain, known as differentiation.

The basics of brain development, Structure of the forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain, StudySmarterStructure of the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain in the fetus, Erika Hae, StudySmarter Originals

The forebrain is one of the first structures formed in the brain.

The forebrain is responsible for higher-order functions such as processing sensory information.

The forebrain later develops into the cerebrum, cerebral cortex (outer layer of the cerebrum, where much of brain processing takes place), and thalamus (information hub of the brain).

The cerebrum is the largest structure in the brain. The cerebrum is divided into left and right hemispheres. Each of the hemispheres is made up of four lobes:

  • The frontal lobe is responsible for thought, planning, memory, problem-solving, and social behaviours such as facial expressions.

  • The parietal lobe processes somatosensory information such as what we touch, feel or even the temperature.

  • The occipital lobe processes visual information and helps us understand what we see.

  • The temporal lobe processes auditory information; it is also needed for language and speech.

The midbrain is responsible for sensory information, sleep, and specific movements such as movement of the eyes. The midbrain later develops into part of the brainstem and plays an essential role in relaying information between the forebrain and cerebellum.

You may notice a slight overlap between the functions of the forebrain and midbrain.

The hindbrain is located at the back of the brain.

An interesting fact about the hindbrain is that researchers have found it has existed in creatures since ancient times.

Based on this information, the hindbrain's function probably makes sense. The hindbrain is responsible for basic functions such as survival and reproduction instincts. In addition to involuntary processes such as heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing (these processes are part of the autonomic nervous system). The cerebellum and medulla develop in the hindbrain during later development, which we will now discuss in further detail.

Early brain development stages - the cerebellum

The cerebellum is formed when a fetus is six weeks old. Research on the brain development stages has found that the cerebellum triples in size from when a fetus is six weeks old to when an infant becomes one years-old. Why the cerebellum develops so fast has been thought to be because the region controls motor skills, which progress a lot from when you are a fetus to one year old.

You have probably heard the saying practise makes perfect; this makes sense in this context. Pre-natally a fetus cannot do simple movements, but an infant can begin to learn to crawl or make movements. This explains why the cerebellum may develop so much during this period.

Early brain development stages - the medulla

When the fetus is 20 weeks old, the medulla oblongata has developed.

The medulla oblongata is a structure that controls involuntary bodily responses (autonomic functions) such as breathing.

The medulla oblongata connects the brain to the spinal cord. Therefore, this structure is important to ensure that the brain and body can send messages to each other.

When the fetus is around six months old, the brain's structure is very similar to an adult brain. However, at birth, a baby’s brain is 25% of the size of an adult brain.

After the brain structures have developed, the connections between the structures develop (this happens throughout the lifespan), which improves our abilities to do tasks that the brain structures/ networks are responsible for.

The basics of brain development, diagram showing the structure of the brain, StudySmarterDiagram showing the forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain, cerebellum and medulla oblongata, commons.wikimedia.org

Importance of brain development in early years

Each brain structure must be developed to carry out its associated function. A vital part of a baby's brain development is developing neural connections, undergoing fast proliferation.

There are neural connections in the brain that allow different brain structures to send messages.

Neural connections are important because the brain structures work collaboratively to complete an action.

Hypothetically, the forebrain may be activated when we see a lion approaching us. Our survival instincts may kick in (therefore, the hindbrain would be activated). The hindbrain may then relay a signal to the cerebellum so that we can run.

These neural connections are vital for learning new skills. Every time something is learned, new neural connections are formed. From birth until three years old, 700-1000 new neural connections are formed every second. During the first year of life, the brain doubles in size.

To make sure these connections are formed and the brain develops properly, it is crucial that young children have enough stimulation. There is a very apt phrase for the brain, ‘use it or lose it'; essentially, when the new connections are not 'used', they are lost through a process known as pruning. Pruning is not all bad - often pruning allows space for more efficient connections to be made, mass amounts of connections does not mean efficient transmission of information.

Brain development in early childhood forms the brain's functionality for later life.

Brain development Psychology example

Research into brain development in psychology has established the importance of brain development.

Children exposed to alcohol or drugs prenatally have been found to have problems with brain development. This is known as fetal alcohol syndrome.

Some examples of how fetal alcohol syndrome can affect later development are later problems with language, processing information abilities, attention, speech and social skills.

Research into fetal alcohol syndrome highlights how important brain development is to later development.


Early brain development - Key takeaways

  • Brain development meaning is the biological process that results in the brain structures forming, and the network between these structures forms that are required for the brain and body to function.

  • The forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain are brain structures that develop when a fetus is around three to four weeks old.

  • The cerebellum and medulla later develop from the hindbrain.

  • To carry out a function, the part of the brain responsible for that function must develop fully. This is why brain development is so important in the early years of life.

  • Research into fetal alcohol syndrome highlights how important brain development is to healthy brain function.

Frequently Asked Questions about Brain Development

Brain development is the biological process that results in the brain structures forming and the (neuronal) connections between these structures. 

The three main principles of brain development are physical, cognitive and psychosocial development. 

The four important phases of brain development are:

  • the development of the neural tube 
  • the neural tube developing into the forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain 
  • the hindbrain developing into the cerebellum and medulla 
  • after the brain structures have developed, the neuronal connections between the structures develop. 

The brain continually develops throughout the lifespan. 

Brain development is a process that begins prenatally and lasts throughout the lifespan.

Final Brain Development Quiz

Question

How old is the fetus when the neural tube develops?

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Answer

Around three or four weeks old.

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What three sections does the neural tube split into?

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Answer

Forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain.

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Question

What is the forebrain responsible for?


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Higher-order functions such as planning and problem solving

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What sections of the brain does the forebrain develop into?


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Answer

Cerebrum, cerebral cortex, and thalamus

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What is the midbrain responsible for?


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Answer

Sensory information, sleep, and certain movements such as movement of the eyes. 

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Question

What is brain development? 

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Answer

Brain development is the biological process that results in the brain structures forming, and the network between these structures formed that are required for the brain and body to function. 

Show question

Question

What is the hindbrain responsible for?


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Answer

Basic functions such as survival and reproduction instincts and involuntary processes such as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing.

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Question

The hindbrain contains what two brain structures?


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Answer

Cerebellum and medulla oblongata.

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What is the cerebellum responsible for?


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Answer

Motor skills such as walking.

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What is the medulla responsible for?


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Answer

Involuntary bodily responses such as breathing.

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Why is brain development so important?


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Answer

To carry out a function, the part of the brain responsible for that function must be developed.

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Question

How many neural connections are formed every second from birth until three years old?


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Answer

700-1000

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How does the brain develop after the brain structures have formed? 

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Answer

After the brain structures have developed, the connections between the structures develop (this happens throughout the lifespan), which improves our abilities to do tasks that the brain structures/ networks are responsible for. 

Show question

Question

Which is the largest structure in the brain? 


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Answer

Cerebrum

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Question

If a mother consumes alcohol during pregnancy, it can lead to what syndrome in the children?


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Answer

Fetal alcohol syndrome

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