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Infant brain development

The brain undergoes an amazing period of development after birth with the progressive maturation of the brain giving rise to the acquisition of psychomotor skills, language, social and emotional development and cognitive functions such as attention and learning. From birth to the age of 3 a child sees the fastest rate of brain development of his entire life span. A 4-week-old fetus forms new neurons at a rate of 250,000 every minute. This rapid rate of development is reflected in the rates of glucose utilization. In the first 4 years the child’s brain utilizes twice as much energy in the form of glucose metabolism as that of adults.

This period of incredible and rapid development creates a window of opportunity in which the brain is particularly sensitive to experience and the acquisition of new information. The experiences a child has during this time will shape the architecture of his/her brain and neuronal connections. The advances in research in infant neurodevelopment highlight the crucial nature of experience in shaping the brain, the role of nutrition for health development and the importance of stimulating learning.