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How does experience shape the brain?

We take an in depth look at the biological development of the brain in relation to Orson’s experience of the world, this explanation is accompanied by animations that help to visually describe the changes and development taking place. It also includes an interview with Maria Robinson, who describes these processes in an very accessible way.

Good for looking at

  • how experience helps to shape the brain
  • the importance of early experiences
  • understanding how the brain develops
  • how a baby begins to understand what's happening around them

Transcript of video – How does experience shape the brain?

Let’s find out a bit about how the human brain develops. Unlike the wrinkled cortex of an adult brain, a newborn’s cortex is relatively smooth. And then the baby’s experiences shape the brain in the first three years to the extent that the early cortex is not big enough to contain all this growth so it has to crinkle up to be able to fit in the expansion; consequently the head grows rapidly in size as well.
So how do experiences shape the brain?
‘Now the thing about our brains is that they’re made up of a hundred billion brain cells that are called neurons and when a baby’s born we have all these in place but not many connections between them. When the baby’s getting all this information from it’s senses what happens is that when the information gets passed down the axon – it gets sent to the next neuron by chemical messengers because there’s a tiny little gap between each of the neurons called a synapse and then the next neuron gets this information. Those connections that we don’t use seem to actually get pruned away. The experiences dictate how the brain itself is organised. Those familiar experiences become like well worn pathways through a wood so the brain cells start firing more strongly because they’ve had that information before so it helps the baby to begin to sort out what’s happening in its world through this chaos of information, through all its senses.’