Saturday, November 13, 2010
12:49 PM James Manuel 6 comments
But months before that, while still in the womb, baby’s brain has gone into operation. It is registering perceptions from its watery environment. It hears, tastes, senses light, reacts to touch, learns, and remembers. The mother’s emotions can affect it. Gentle words or soft music calms it. Angry speech or rock music agitates it. The mother’s rhythmic heartbeat soothes it. But if fear sets her heart racing, soon baby’s heart beats twice as fast. A distressed mother transmits anxiety to the babe in her womb. A tranquil mother carries a peaceful baby. A joyful mother may make the babe in her womb jump for joy. All of this and more keeps baby’s brain busy. Even in the womb it is awesome.
And that number is awesome! A staggering one quadrillion connections may eventually be made—that is one followed by 15 zeros! But only if the brain has been richly stimulated by input from the five or more senses. The environment must stimulate both mental and emotional activity, for that is what makes the fine network of dendrites grow. Dendrites are the tiny rootlike hairs that reach out from the neurons to connect with other neurons.
There is also a time factor involved in making these connections: They are formed much faster in the young than in the old. The saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is not true. But it is harder to teach an old dog new tricks. In the aged, connections between the neurons are slower to form and quicker to fade. The price of their forming is the same as it is in the child—exposure to an enriched, stimulating environment. The mind must continue active! No sinking resignedly into a mental rut! No retirement for the mind!
But the growth that is awesome is in the infant brains. They are sponges soaking up their surroundings! In two years a baby learns a complex language, just by being exposed to it. If it hears two languages, it learns them both. If three are spoken, it learns all three. One man taught his small children five languages all at once—Japanese, Italian, German, French, and English. A woman exposed her daughter to several languages, and by the time the child was five, she could speak eight languages fluently. Learning languages usually comes hard for adults, but with babies it just comes naturally.
Language is only one example of abilities genetically programmed into baby brains. Musical and artistic abilities, muscular coordination, the need for meaning and purpose, conscience and moral values, altruism and love, faith and the urge to worship—all depend on specialized systems in the brain. In other words, genetically established networks of neurons are specially preprogrammed to be receptive to the development of these and other abilities and potentials.
Understand, however, that at birth these are only potentials, capacities, predispositions. There must be input to make them flower. They must be exposed to the appropriate experiences or environments or studies to become realities. And there is also a correct timetable for such exposures to be most effective, especially in the case of infants.
But when the surroundings are right and the timing is correct, amazing things happen. Not only are languages learned but musical instruments are played, athletic abilities are fostered, consciences are trained, love is absorbed, and a foundation for true worship is laid down. All of this and much, much more, as baby brains are sown with good seed and watered with parental love.