With school starting this week, I have been reflecting on the amazing growth that occurs from birth to age five within the brain. It amazes me that we start life as this completely dependent tiny human, and we progress to begin talking, walking, reading, decision making and be (almost) independent by the time we walk into kindergarten. The developing brain is a fascinating topic, as even with the body of knowledge that has amassed in the academic world, we still have the nature vs. nurture argument when it comes to outside influence on the brain development. Structural brain development occurs during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy mostly, so then what happens when we have a preterm infant born as early as 22 weeks? Does this brain develop the same in the NICU environment as in utero? We know that prematurity alone carries a big risk of abnormal brain development, and then adding the experiences of the NICU put the infant at high risk for poor neuro-developmental outcomes. As NICU nurses who love the nurturing the brain, we must remember that every interaction we have with these fragile babies is shaping their brain, and ensure that these interactions are positive, despite the painful stimuli we must sometimes inflict to deliver the highest quality care.
Each new generation of children grows up in the new environment its parents have created, and each generation of brains becomes wired in a different way. The human mind can change radically in just a few generations.
Have a great week!
-Kathi and Shannon