Resources for Early Childhood Development
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The Wisconsin team found weaker connections in the neural circuits connecting the amygdala with the prefrontal cortex in teenage girls whose parents reported higher stress when the girls were infants. It was as if the threat signals from the amygdala weren’t getting through and couldn’t be assessed properly by the prefrontal cortex.
Not all stress is the same. There's good stress (for developing), bad stress (from which we can recover), and toxic stress (which is the worst in the long run).
Brains are built. Our early relationships and environments, our history, literally get under the skin and shape the architecture of our developing brain.
In a pioneering experiment, McGill University’s Michael Meaney showed that newborn rat pups which were licked and groomed by their mothers after birth grew up to be relatively calm and inquisitive. But pups of low-licking and grooming mothers grew up to be on a flight-or-flight stress trigger. Does this apply to humans as well?
How do our social environments (nurturing, toxic, and in-between) alter the epigenetic ‘dimmer switches’ that turn our genes on and off—with enduring consequences?
Humans are resilient organisms and studies show that negative epigenetic effects need not be permanent.
If social conditions can “get under the skin” and modify our biology, are less-affluent children being primed for more problems in life?
Rat mothers like to build nests for their pups with soft materials. But these moms have only been given hard, scratchy, inferior building supplies.
We’ve long known that early life can last a lifetime. Now new science shows how our experiences can become imprinted in our biology, altering gene expression.