Archive for the ‘Rejuvenating’ Category

Spotlight on middle childhood: Rejuvenating the ‘forgotten years’ (part 6)

Middle childhood: Where to begin?
The implications of neural plasticity, as they relate to moulding human development are far-reaching. They prove that the developmental process is initiated by genetics, but shaped by experience, making middle childhood a prime period to impact future change in a child’s life. The investments made during this period can yield favourable outcomes in the areas of future health, intelligence, social and emotional well-being. It is a self-perpetuating cycle, with each new experience modifying neural architecture, leading to the acquisition of new skills and abilities, that in turn, open doors to further opportunities. The key is to initiate the cycle by providing environments, structures and experiences that begin, and continue, to stimulate children’s minds and bodies to build a strong base for the remainder of their lives. Paediatricians can encourage families to begin this cycle with the following keys:
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Spotlight on middle childhood: Rejuvenating the ‘forgotten years’ (part 5)

Cognitive and social development  Middle childhood is when children transition from dependent preschoolers to young individuals with an active role in their family and community structures. Their thoughts become more abstract, their behaviours and emotions more controlled and their decisions more independent. It is during middle childhood when neurons responsible for cognition, language and social skills are being consolidated.

From seven to 11 years of age, children gain cognitive control, with an increasing ability to respond selectively to stimuli and begin to process and understand material effectively. Feedback loops between the forebrain and midbrain transform, thus enabling flexible regulation of thoughts and actions in the presence of competing stimuli. Language control has a more prolonged maturation process, with gray matter maturation in the cortex of the temporal and frontal lobes stretching into adolescence. These rich periods of neuromaturation are the best time to expose children to an array of experiences which can strengthen the number and precision of these connections, and enhance their cognitive abilities and language capacity.
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Spotlight on middle childhood: Rejuvenating the ‘forgotten years’ (part 4)

Rejuvenating the 'forgotten years' (part 4)

The self-esteem gained from sport can also secondarily strengthen academic performance. However, this is not the only mechanism by which sport and academics are linked. Studies have shown that physical activity produces growth factors and proteins that protect and stimulate the brain, and improve memory, concentration and attention. This finding is supported by research from the University of Illinois (Illinois, USA) showing that fitter young children from the same socioeconomic backgrounds and with the same body mass index performed better on tests assessing attention and complex memory. Active children also have significantly larger basal ganglia and hippocampi, areas responsible for maintaining attention, coordination and memory. Read the rest of this entry »

Spotlight on middle childhood: Rejuvenating the ‘forgotten years’ (part 3)

Physical literacy

When you compare six and 12-year-olds as they throw a ball, you will notice that the younger child demonstrates significantly more extraneous movements, whereas the older child is more precise and purposeful. This is because through middle childhood, children develop increased physical abilities that parallel the process of synaptic pruning. This is why simply getting children moving during their elementary school years can improve their motor skills and initiate sustainable healthy living habits, while at the same time providing stimuli that augment synaptic remodelling. However, that is not all that activity provides. It has been found that physical activity through middle childhood plays an integral role in instilling self-confidence and in providing a conduit for learning.
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Spotlight on middle childhood: Rejuvenating the ‘forgotten years’ (part 2)

The role of the brain From birth to young adulthood, the human brain is rapidly maturing, with the most rapid growth early on in life, when the brain is most plastic. Imaging and postmortem histology studies have shown that the brain undergoes selective pruning, a process in which some areas are enhanced, while others are selectively attenuated. This adaptive process is influenced, in many critical aspects, by daily experiences that can direct new axonal projections, and synaptic reductions and consolidations. Hence, despite any genetic predispositions for mental health or physical risk factors that a person may have, with proper nurturing and exposure to stimulating environments it is possible to alter one’s epigenetics and how one will perceive and interact with the world as an adult. This was best exemplified in a study by Pollak et al, who found that despite the early childhood experience of living in an orphanage, children who were placed in an enriched adoptive family began to perform better on physical, social and cognitive functions.
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Spotlight on middle childhood: Rejuvenating the ‘forgotten years’ (part 1)

Rejuvenating the 'forgotten years' (part 1)

That are you doing?” nine-year-old Emma asked me with W wide-eyed curiosity for the second time in 10 min as I sat writing notes on the paediatric ward. Have you ever noticed how inquisitive school-age children are? The intricacies of their social interactions, the passion in their voice when they share a story, and the speed at which they learn and adapt is quite impressive. There are many changes that occur as they navigate the intricate path from preschooler to adolescent, changes that are integral to their overall development. Read the rest of this entry »

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So Many Advances in Medicine, So Many Yet to Come