I am passionate about neuroscience and what we can learn from the latest research on the brain. Since June is brain awareness month, I invite you to join me as we chat about a broad range of topics that follow the science which is emerging regarding our grey matter.
Let’s start with brain connectivity. There has been significant progress in recent years that has allowed researchers to map out the brain’s intricate wiring, as well as observe our patterns of neural activity. There is even a term, “the connectome”, that is the new descriptor for the complete map of the neural connections in our brain. This is akin to the “genome project” of the early 2000’s that mapped out our genetic code and how our genes function. Mapping the connectome is not yet complete, but it has great potential for unraveling those mysteries of brain function and cognition that we have been looking for answers to.
In studying brain connectivity, researchers have discovered that our brain is divided into many networks. Each different network performs distinct cognitive functions and each specializes in processing specific types of information. Of course, the brain then operates by sharing information across highly inter-connected channels. In fact, understanding how different brain regions communicate and interact with each other is a critical piece of the mapping process.
As the science develops, we are beginning to uncover how these networks interact with each other. This is important for understanding various aspects of human cognition, such as perception, attention, memory, and even decision-making. It is equally important to understand that disruptions in connectivity have been linked to numerous neurological and psychiatric conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorders.
It is perhaps no surprise that connectivity in the brain undergoes significant changes over a person’s lifetime. During the early stages of life, particularly in infancy, there is a rapid growth of brain connections, resulting in a dense network of neurons. This initial overabundance of connections allows for flexibility and adaptability in an infant’s brain function. However, as development progresses, neural pruning occurs. Essentially the brain selectively eliminates unnecessary connections while strengthening important ones. This sculpting process establishes the circuits that underlie what will become normal brain function for that infant.
Simultaneously, myelination, the growth of an insulating fatty sheath around axons, (the neuron’s messaging connectors) plays a vital role in stabilizing communication within and between brain regions. This myelin sheath improves the efficiency and speed of neural transmission. These structural changes; brain pruning and myelination, contribute to the maturation and refinement of brain connectivity. Researchers are discovering that development of the myelin sheath for instance, can actually predict how well an infant will read by the time they reach school age. This is just one reason why early brain connections are valuable for our children.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, there is a continued strengthening of connectivity and communication within the brain. Enhanced connectivity between different brain regions allows for better integration of information and improves the higher brain’s control over our behaviour. The teenage years are, at least from a brain perspective, all about maturation of connectivity to support the development of necessary cognitive abilities like decision-making, attention, and impulse control.
Brain connectivity undergoes dynamic changes throughout a person’s lifetime. Early in life, there is rapid growth of connections followed by pruning and myelination. This contributes to the establishment of essential circuits. These developmental processes shape brain function and lay the foundation for cognitive abilities. Understanding the trajectory of changes in our connectivity across different age groups provides valuable insights into brain development, aging, and cognition.
To learn more about the neuroscience follow me on my social media accounts (listed below) or if you would like to hear more about how to boost your brain health, so that you can improve your performance, your sense of well-being, and the quality of your relationships, please call or use the link below, to book a session with Simone Usselman-Tod.
Stress Management and Mindset Breakthrough Coach,
Certified NeuroChange and NLP Master Practitioner and Coach.
Book a call with Simone now https://simoneusselmantod.com/book/