20 JUL 2011 by ideonexus

 The Importance of Tactile Experience in Infants

Nonetheless, our early touch experiences determine the extent of possible tactile sensitivity. They also play a surprisingly potent role in the overall quality of brain development. We have already seen in Chapter 2 how rats raised in a highly enriched environment develop a thicker cerebral cortex and are actually cleverer than rats raised in a standard laboratory environment. A good share of this enriching experience involves tactile sensation. When young rats are provided with new toys, the...
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Rats provided with a variety of constantly changed toys to play with and those touched by their mothers have larger brains and are more cognitively prepared for the world.

18 JUL 2011 by ideonexus

 How Brains Grow Into Bodies

Brain wiring begins with the outgrowth of axons. Once a newborn neuron has migrated, planting its cell body in a permanent position, it sends out a fine axon shoot with an enlarged tip known as a growth cone. At the end of the growth cone are about a dozen long tentacles that shoot out in all directions and act like radar, picking up all manner of navigational signals. They feel out the best-textured surfaces, sniff around for chemical cues, and even use tiny electrical fields to help the axo...
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Best description yet of the synaptic "pruning" human brains go through as the brain wires up to the body and best reason yet for why children should have rich, mentally-nourishing environments in which to grow so that their synapses don't get unnecessarily pruned, resulting in smaller brains.