Boosting your child’s brain: Factors that can make the world of difference in your child’s life

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  • Child’s brain develops the fastest from birth to 3 years of age; general population unaware of factors boosting child’s brain.
  • Doctors form Paras Panchkula share their knowledge and experience for better child upbringing.
  • Childhood stimulations, good sleep and circadian rhythms, and reducing screen-based activities are few important factors important for cognitive and psychosocial development of a child’s brain.

All parents want their child to have an active, sharp brain, but except for the general idea of good care and upbringing, parents are generally unaware of the factors that aid development of a child’s brain.  At birth, an infant’s brain contains 100 billion neurons, which is more than adults. The brain develops the fastest from birth to the age of 3 years, while making over a million brain-cell connections every second. It is important for these connections, which are also called neural synapses, to get wired through various stimulations. Unwired synapses get lost during the child’s growing years.

So, why do we really end-up losing neural synapses? Dr. Jyoti Chawla, Senior Consultant Paediatrics, Paras Panchkula said “The wiring in the brain functions as per the rule ‘use it or lose it’. Synapses that are not “wired together” through stimulation are pruned and lost during a child’s school years. Stimulations are anything that evokes a functional reaction from the child’s brain, and it can be something as simple as cuddling, talking, exposure to various toys, and so on.  Although an infant’s brain does have some neurological hard wiring, such as the ability to learn any language, it is more pliable and more vulnerable than an adult’s brain. And, amazingly, a toddler’s brain has twice as many neural connections as an adult’s. When you provide loving, language-enriched experiences for your baby, you are giving the child’s brain’s neural connections and pathways more chances to become wired together. Synapses gradually are lost unless they get wired through stimulations.”

Doctors say that childhood being a crucial and important time for cognitive and psychosocial development, ensuring your child receives healthy levels of stimulations is important. Apart from exposure to stimulations, a number of other factors can boost your child’s brain.

  • Reset your child’s sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythms: Circadian rhythm is also referred generally as body clock, which help us stay awake during day and sleep at night. “A good sleep and rest is important for your child’s brain because many bodily and cellular functions are dependent on having coherent rhythms, and out-of-sync rhythms are associated with a myriad of health problems. As a growing child begins falling in to a pattern of sleeping and waking, parents should ensure that the correct pattern is set. Healthy sleep patterns and deep sleep in particular are dependent on normalized circadian cycles and adequate melatonin (sleep-signal) secretion, which is suppressed by both screens and manmade EMFs.   Deep sleep is essential for critical thinking, focus, memory and mood, and not getting enough of it makes a child “wired and tired.”” said Dr. Jyoti Chawla.  Parents can do the following:
    • Using the morning sunlight: Letting the morning sunlight enter the child’s room will help your child wake and go to bed earlier at appropriate times. Do remember to turn-off other sources of lights such as light bulbs.
    • Avoid light during night time: Like in the morning, while getting the child to sleep, unnatural bright light and screens (such as television, mobile phones) should be turned off.
    • Bedtime should be adjusted:  Getting your child to sleep early requires a lot of efforts. Instead of sending your child to bed very early, try and first fix a time that matches his rhythm and then keep preponing it by 15 minutes, till he falls in the habit of sleeping at the correct time.
    • Follow a fixed regular sleep schedule: Once fixed, it is important that the sleep schedule is adhered to. Family activities should not alter the child’s sleeping time.
    • Allow for deep rest:  Do ensure that the child receives undisturbed sleep by avoiding all other external stimulations such as bright light and sound.
  • Rebalance brain chemistry by reducing screen-based activities.  It is important for children in the modern age to have controlled exposure to screens, especially through video games, television and now mobile phones.
    • Ensuring good hormone balance: The related activities trigger dopamine release, which is the hormone majorly responsible for activating addiction pathways. Since melatonin, which is a hormone important for good health and well-being, converts to serotonin hormone, its depletion could theoretically affect serotonin levels.  Serotonin is necessary for calmness, a sense of well-being, and bonding, and it influences mood and social behaviour.
    • Improve blood flow to the frontal lobe.  Critical thinking, creative activities and sports improve frontal lobe blood flow, whereas screen activities tend to localize blood flow to the more primitive areas of the brain.  This is bad enough for adults, but for children these shifts can be devastating over time and may impact development permanently.

o    Reduce stress hormones.  Screen activities are associated with the stress response.  This means fight-or-flight hormones are released in the short term, and cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone, is increased over time.  Both of these hormonal trends are linked to cognitive, mood and behavioural issues as well as poor physical health.

o    Reduce overstimulation. The brain is not meant to be bombarded with unnatural visual stimulation (overly bright and intense colors, rapidly shifting scenes, excessive movement, plus the brightness of the screen itself) nor is it meant to process man-made electromagnetic fields.

One more new step to boost your child’s brain is to “normalize the biofield”. “A biofield is relatively new and exciting area of study. The biofield is the body’s natural electromagnetic field and is reflective of many levels, from brainwaves and heart rhythms, to nerve impulses and cellular membrane channels, to DNA vibrations and the aforementioned heart-brain connection. What we learn about the biofield will undoubtedly prove useful in terms of protecting against EMFs. In the meantime, the best way to protect the body’s biofield is to minimize exposure to electronics, especially those with screens.  Screens compound exposure because our eyes connect directly to the brain.” advised Dr. Jyoti Chawla.