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These short analyses review recently published studies in neuroscience and the developmental and behavioral sciences, focusing on their key findings, methods, and contributions to an evolving, integrated knowledge base on early childhood development.
Developmental and Behavioral Science>>
Even Low Levels of Alcohol During Pregnancy Can Affect Fetal Brain Development (2008)
The results of this study indicate that even exposure to low levels of alcohol during pregnancy can initiate a cascade of atypical development that results in distinct imbalances of excitation and inhibition during postnatal development and in the adult. This imbalance can be detrimental because the excitation and inhibition signals are critical for the maturation of brain circuits that control important functions.Download PDF>>
Neutralizing Threats to Brain Chemistry Caused by Maternal Infections (2008)
This study's findings have significant implications for developing more aggressive prevention and treatment strategies for women who contract influenza and other infections when pregnant, in order to avoid long-lasting disruptions in the brain chemistry of their babies.
ADHD Delays, Rather than Alters, Brain Development (2008)
The findings of this study indicate that the maturation of brain architecture occurs in a highly similar fashion between typically developing children and those with ADHD, with a significant delay in those with the disorder. This delay also leads to a shift in when individuals with ADHD go through the process of pruning of nerve connections that is part of the normal maturation process during adolescence.
The Environment and Experiences of Pregnant Mothers Affect Fetal Brain Development (2008)
This study shows that “normal” behavior during pregnancy is an important element in influencing the rates and patterns of fetal brain development. These findings have significant implications ensuring sound, healthy experiences for women during pregnancy.
Prenatal and Infant Exposure to an Environmental Pollutant Damages Brain Architecture and Plasticity (2007)
This study found that animals exposed to PCBs, an environmental pollutant, had impaired ability to recognize sounds of different frequencies, as well as impaired development of auditory circuits, a key mechanism for learning new skills.
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Fetal Alcohol Exposure Reduces Adult Brain Plasticity (2007)
Observations of mice from birth through young adulthood showed that fetal exposure to alcohol alters the development of brain architecture and can disturb adult brain plasticity by impeding the survival of neurons produced in adulthood and impairing the brain’s ability to remodel itself later in life.
Enriched Environments in Adolescence Prevent Long-Term Effects of Early Impoverished Environments (2007)
This study found that the negative effects of early stress were mitigated by exposure to positive environments immediately after experiencing an impoverished environment, preventing rats from experiencing cognitive deficits and disrupted emotional behavior.
The Impact of Ultrasound on Developing Brain Neurons (2007)
A study of mice exposed to ultrasound waves showed that the more intense the exposure, the more neurons will be misplaced in the brain and the more likely they are to develop atypical connections.
Maternal Hormones Prepare Fetuses for Stress of Delivery (2007)
It was found that the hormone oxytocin, naturally produced by the mother just before birth to facilitate delivery, also protects the fetal brain from potential complications and well-known stressors that arise during birth, indicating that the maternal-fetal connection can have long-term impacts on health outcomes.
Effects of Toxic Stress During Pregnancy (2007)
This study found that predictable, repeated, intense stress during pregnancy was more disruptive and caused long-term increases in anxiety-like behavior in offspring when compared to the effects of milder and more random stressors.
Critical Periods in the Development of Fear (2007)
This study found that the presence of corticosterone in a part of the brain called the amygdala determined whether a normally painful experience was learned as an attractive or fearful event. It also identified a critical period of learning during which a specific experience is associated with later attraction or fear.
Focus and Planning Skills Can Be Improved Before a Child Enters School (2008)
This study’s findings suggest that focusing attention on executive function skills in the formative developmental period for preschool age children, through a curriculum incorporating noncognitive skill development like the “Tools of the Mind” curriculum, can be helpful and may also improve the development of more traditional academic skills.
Effects of Childhood Stress Can Accumulate in the Body (2008)
The results of this study indicate that, for children, chronic stress gets built into the body, and its cumulative effects are linked to increased physiological risk of long-term health problems. Findings regarding the effects of allostatic load provide a link between adverse environments and impaired reactions to stress, greater behavioral problems, and poorer academic achievement.
How Early Child Care Affects Later Development (2007)
Observations of children followed from birth through school age find that parenting quality has a stronger influence on children's cognitive and social-emotional development than the child care experience, but also find that quality child care is associated with positive language and behavioral development.
How Gene-Environment Interaction Affects Children's Anxious and Fearful Behavior (2007)
In a study of children observed as babies and again at school age, it was found that children were more likely to become anxious and shy individuals if they had a genetic predisposition to anxiety and their mothers lacked social support, resulting in environmental stress for the children.
The Effects of Early Reading with Parents on Developing Literacy Skills (2007)
A study of lower-income mothers with children in Early Head Start shows that reading to very young children even before children have begun to identify letters can form an important foundation for vocabulary development and language skills later in life.
Connections Between Early Literacy and Social Behavior (2006)
In two groups of children from lower-income families, early problems in literacy achievement are not immediately associated with aggressive behavior but, over time, they become increasingly predictive as these difficulties gather momentum and as children become more frustrated.