Teachers can influence brain development in their students and
sometimes they may make all the difference in the world to a child.

require physical protection, limit setting and a stable environment but
their primary need is for ongoing, nurturing relationships, said Robbin
Gibb, a University of Lethbridge neuroscientist, during her keynote
speech Thursday at the Western Canadian Association for Student
Teaching conference at the U of L.

You can have a huge impact on
early negative experiences
,” she told a packed house of teachers,
student teachers and faculty from across Western Canada at the U of L
theatre. “One of the best ways to do that is to establish a
relationship with them.”

Experience provides tremendous input for
the developing brain and those experiences, in concert with one’s
genetic code, produces a unique brain for every person. Brains are
sculpted throughout life as some cell connections wither and die while
others are reinforced. The sculpting process allows us to be adaptable
but some experiences leave a mark. For example, pregnant women who are
in a happy relationship can have babies whose brains are more resilient.

developing brains go through sensitive periods. Vision and hearing
development are most sensitive up to age five while social skill
development is sensitive until age seven. The frontal lobe of the
brain, which is involved in memory, learning, social and emotional
behaviour and spontaneity, is particularly vulnerable to experiences.

and motor experiences can influence a baby’s brain development even
before it’s born. Research has shown pregnant rats placed in an
enriched environment produced smarter offspring.

We are really underestimating the developing period in utero,” Gibb said.

such as nicotine, caffeine, antidepressants and antipsychotics can
affect brain development, as does stress. While some stress is needed
for optimal development, overwhelming stress has long-term health

Hormones also shape the way the brain develops.

Male brains and female brains are different,” Gibb said.

development occurs at different rates, with peak development for girls
at about age nine and age 13 for boys. Males and females also have
different brain capacities. Females tend to be better at tasks like
mathematical calculations, recall of stories and remembering where
objects are located. Males are better at mathematical reasoning and
mentally rotating objects and they have better target-directed skills.

school system expects boys and girls to be able to do the same things
at the same age but that may not be the best strategy, Gibb said.

research has shown children are not as resilient as once thought.
Romanian orphans adopted before six months of age tended to fit into
their adoptive families better than those who were adopted after six
months of age.

Play experiences affect the developing brain, too.
Fathers and mothers play differently with their children, with dads
offering the more rough and tumble type of play experiences that are
also needed for healthy development.

The annual WestCAST conference
is running concurrently with the South Western Alberta Teachers
Convention, also being held at the U of L. Pamela Adams, a U?of L
education professor and co-chairman of WestCast 2010, said the
conference drew 500 delegates from across Western Canada.


Source: Lethbridge Herald – http://tinyurl.com/ydrlcz9