Topic: brain architecture

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Experiences Build Brain Architecture video still, showing neurons firing and growing

Experiences Build Brain Architecture

This 2-minute video explains how the basic architecture of the brain is constructed through a process that begins early in life and continues into adulthood.

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Brain Architecture game

The Brain Architecture Game

This tabletop board game experience was designed to engage policymakers, community and business leaders, health and education service providers, and government officials in understanding the science of early brain development—what promotes it, what derails it, and what are the consequences for society.

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A mother responds to her baby's babbling

Serve & Return Interaction Shapes Brain Circuitry

This 2-minute video explains why  “serve and return” interaction between children and significant adults in their lives is one of the most essential experiences in shaping the architecture of the developing brain.

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Working Paper 1 cover

Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships

This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains why an environment of relationships is crucial for the development of a child’s brain architecture, which lays the foundation for later developmental outcomes.

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A cover image from the Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts paper, showing the title and an image of two parents kissing their baby

From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts

This report synthesizes 15 years of dramatic advances in the science of early childhood and early brain development, analyzes evidence generated by 50 years of program evaluation research, and presents a framework for driving science-based innovation in early childhood policy and practice.

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MOOC: The Best Start in Life: Early Childhood Development for Sustainable Development

This online course draws from research in neuroscience, psychology, economics, anthropology, and program implementation and evaluation in order to discuss ECD and explore its role in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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Brain-Building Through Play: Activities for Infants, Toddlers, and Children

  View Handouts  From infancy on, play is an important part of a child’s life. For babies and toddlers, simple, playful interactions with adults help develop sturdy brain architecture, the foundations of lifelong health, and the building blocks of resilience. Through games and playful activities, children can practice and strengthen important executive function skills that […]

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Cover image of working paper 15, "Connecting the Brain to the Rest of the Body: Early Childhood Development and Lifelong Health Are Deeply Intertwined"

Connecting the Brain to the Rest of the Body: Early Childhood Development and Lifelong Health Are Deeply Intertwined

The rapidly advancing frontiers of 21st-century biological sciences now provide compelling evidence that the foundations of lifelong health are built early, with increasing evidence of the importance of the prenatal period and first few years after birth.

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Gray concrete pillars supporting a structure (Photo by Mirko Blicke on Unsplash)

The Brain Architects Podcast: Serve and Return: Supporting the Foundation

What is “serve and return”? What does it mean to have a “responsive relationship” with a child? How do responsive relationships support healthy brain development? And what can parents and caregivers do in their day-to-day lives to build these sorts of relationships? This episode of The Brain Architects podcast addresses all these questions and more! […]

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The Brain Architects Podcast: Brain Architecture: Laying the Foundation

Why are the early years of a child’s life so important for brain development? How are connections built in the brain, and how can early brain development affect a child’s future health? This episode of The Brain Architects dives into all these questions and more. First, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the […]

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Old-fashioned microphone in front of unfocused black-and-white background Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

About The Brain Architects Podcast

Healthy development in the early years provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, strong communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. By improving children’s environments, relationships, and experiences early in life, society can address many costly problems, including incarceration, homelessness, and the failure to complete high school. But if you’re […]

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Executive Function infographic thumbnail

What Is Executive Function? And How Does It Relate to Child Development?

As essential as they are, we aren’t born with the skills that enable us to control impulses, make plans, and stay focused. In this infographic, learn more about what executive function skills are, why they’re important, and how they’re built.

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Child riding bike with the words "Mini Parenting Master Class" on the image

Building Babies’ Brains Through Play: Mini Parenting Master Class

In this Mini Parenting Master Class from UNICEF, Center on the Developing Child Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., explains the importance of serve and return interactions like play—and how easy they are to do, especially through practice!

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Epigenetics and Child Development: How Children’s Experiences Affect Their Genes

What is epigenetics? In this infographic learn about the science behind genes and their interaction with the environment — nature and nurture — and how these interactions affect child development.

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still from The Brain is a Work in Progress video

Training Module: “Build My Brain”

With lessons on brain architecture and toxic stress, the “Build My Brain” course connects the science of early childhood development to work in early childhood education, public health, and social services.


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Protecting Brains, Stimulating Minds: The Early Life Roots of Success in School

Understanding both the biology of adversity and the science of early learning is essential for building a strong foundation for reducing disparities in educational achievement. The benefits of evidence-based curricula in the early childhood years cannot be fully achieved without effective strategies for preventing the consequences of toxic stress. Center Director Jack Shonkoff speaks at […]

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Brain Story Certification Course logo

Brain Story Certification Course

The Brain Story Certification course is designed for those seeking a deeper understanding of brain development and its consequences for lifelong health.

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Photo of woman caregiver holding an baby talking to another caregiver

Training Module: “Talk With Me Baby”

Learn how to empower and support families so that they can engage in meaningful conversations with their young children and advance their language and lifelong learning. The eight-session “Talk With Me Baby” course is open to the public and available through Cox Campus and Read Right from the Start.

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Daycare teacher works with baby who's playing.

5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return

Serve and return interactions make everyday moments fun and become second nature with practice. By taking small moments during the day to do serve and return, you build up the foundation for children’s lifelong learning, behavior, and health—and their skills for facing life’s challenges.

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Early Exposure to Toxic Substances Damages Brain Architecture

This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains how exposure to toxins before birth or early in life can have a devastating and lifelong effect on the developing architecture of the brain.

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children with caregiver/teacher

8 Things to Remember about Child Development

In this important list, featured in the From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts report, the Center on the Developing Child sets the record straight about some aspects of early child development.

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InBrief: The science of early childhood development cover thumbnail

InBrief: The Science of Early Childhood Development

This brief explains how the science of early brain development can inform investments in early childhood. These basic concepts, established over decades of neuroscience and behavioral research, help illustrate why child development—particularly from birth to five years—is a foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society.

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InBrief: The impact of early adversity on children's development cover thumbnail

InBrief: The Impact of Early Adversity on Children’s Development

This brief explains how providing stable, responsive, nurturing relationships in the earliest years of life can prevent or even reverse the damaging effects of early life stress, with lifelong benefits for learning, behavior, and health.

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Child Development Core Story

This educational video series on the importance of the early years was created by the Project for Babies, a former initiative of the University of Minnesota Center for Early Education and Development.

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Working Paper 5 cover

The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture

This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains key scientific advances in understanding why the early years matter for brain development, as well as the implications of those findings for policy.

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Brain Hero

This 3-minute video adapts the visual sensibility of interactive game models to a video format. Based loosely on such games as “Guitar Hero,” “SimCity,” and “The Game of Life,” the video portrays how actions taken by parents, teachers, policymakers, and others can affect life outcomes for both the child and the surrounding community.

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Three Core Concepts in Early Development

This three-part video series depicts how advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics now give us a much better understanding of how early experiences are built into our bodies and brains, for better or for worse.

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The Science of ECD video still

InBrief: The Science of Early Childhood Development

This video from the InBrief series addresses basic concepts of early childhood development, established over decades of neuroscience and behavioral research.

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Working Paper 2 cover

Children’s Emotional Development Is Built into the Architecture of Their Brains

This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child discusses how a child’s capacity to regulate emotions develops in a complex interaction with his or her environment and ongoing mental, physical, and social development. It also discusses the implications of this research for policies affecting young children, their caregivers, and service providers.

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The Science of Early Childhood Development: Closing the Gap Between What We Know and What We Do

This report outlines seven core concepts of development, and explains their implications for policies and programs that could significantly improve children’s lives.

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A Science-Based Framework for Early Childhood Policy

This report provides a framework for using evidence to improve child outcomes in learning, behavior, and health.

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Working Paper 10 cover

Early Experiences Can Alter Gene Expression and Affect Long-Term Development

Early experiences can affect how and if genes are expressed. This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains how children’s early environmental influences shape their developing brain architecture.

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