Watch this video. Professor Jane Barlow introduces the concepts of experience-expectant and experience-dependent brain development.
In this video we examine the development of the brain during the first two postnatal years in terms of the rapid neural development (i.e. synaptogenesis) that is taking place during this period as a result of the fact that the brain is highly sensitive to environmental input at this time.
We distinguish in particular between ‘experience-expectant’ and ‘experience-dependent’ types of brain development. The former affects a range of aspects of brain development including vision and hearing, social and emotional development, language and higher cognitive functions. Experience-expectant refers to the fact that the average or normal environment provides infants with the necessary input to develop the neural connections to enable the baby to function across these domains. However, if the baby’s brain does not receive input during these critical periods, these functions will be lost permanently.
Many aspects of the baby’s developing brain are what is also known as experience-dependent and these include their socioemotional development, language and some of the higher aspects of cognitive development. They are described as experience-dependent because the neural connections that are established depend entirely on the quality of the environmental input. For example, while all babies are born with a capacity for language development, their ability to communicate verbally will depend on their exposure to language during their early years.
While most babies do not experience the type of severe deprivation in infancy characterised by Russian or Romanian orphanages, all children experience diverse environments that will affect their experience-dependent brain development. In this course we are going to be examining one particular aspect of that diversity…their parent’s mind.