Basic Child Brain Development
How the child's brain develops
The brain develops from the lower levels to the upper levels, from the simple to the complex and in a predictable order and
timetable. ~ Craig Stellpflug NDC
Myelin: the insulation of the brain and nerves
When the infant is born it has basically all the brain cells that it will ever have throughout life. The infant’s brain will be
comprised of upwards to 100 billion brain cells. Yet the brain does more growing and developing in the first six years of
childhood than it will grow and develop the rest of the life of that child. The developing brain completes the majority of it
growth before the age of 6. The actual growth in size of the brain comes from the development and myelination of neuro
pathways along with the 100 trillion connections developed between nerve cells.
As the brain grows and matures from fetal development through adult hood, it lays down layers of myelin starting mostly in
the lower levels of the brain, the medulla and pons levels. Myelin is the fatty substance that the body and brain uses to
“insulate” the neuropathways and speed up the conductivity of signals throughout the CNS (central nervous system). The
brain develops and matures from the lower levels of the brain to the upper levels, from the simple to the complex and in a
predictable order and timetable.
At birth, the medulla of the brain is thinly insulated and the nerve signals from the breathing naturally affects the heart rate.
When the infant inhales the heart speeds up and when the infant exhales the heart slows back down. As the brain matures
and the insulation increases in the medulla the arrhythmia between the heart and breathing lessens until it is no longer
evident in the developing child. A deficiency in EFA’s or a brain insult or injury can weaken or even destroy the development
of the myelin in this critical area of the brain causing an abnormal sinus arrhythmia or even death. A sinus arrhythmia in an
older child is usually a fairly benign condition but is an indicator of problems in brain development and myelination.
As the brain development and myelination move from lower to higher levels of the brain. The specific functions in hearing,
seeing, tactile, mobility, language and manual, functions begin to develop their specialties. Pathways to specialty centers of
the brain develop as signals find the routes to and from the specialty centers. Specialty centers network to enervate other
areas of involvement. For instance, as the child is developing the mobility and walking centers of the brain, other areas in
expressive language function are affected by mobility and develop at the same time. As the child is developing language
function other centers of hearing, seeing and tactile functions are developing and learning how to integrate and share
information with the language centers.
One of the first cranial nerves to develop and myelinate is the 8th cranial nerve, or the auditory nerve. This begins at about 8
weeks of gestation as sounds are picked up by the ears of the fetus in the womb and through bone conduction. The sound
signals wander throughout the brain seeking the best place to develop. The abundance of sound in the womb makes
excellent hearing opportunity for neuro pathways to develop. The eyes on the other hand do not take off in development until
after birth when light first becomes abundantly available to the eyes and brain. There is not much light available to the
developing fetus in the womb thus limiting the eyes development. Subterranean fish do not develop functioning eyes and
the human eye deprived of light will atrophy.
Function determines structure
The point I am making here will follow true throughout the life of the individual. Function determines structure. Without
opportunities to develop a neuro pathway in the brain nothing much will happen. If you stop stimulating an existing pathway
it will atrophy and the brain will prune the nerve cells and diminish the structure of the pathway. The more activity you send
in a pathway the stronger the pathway becomes and the brain applies more myelin to that pathway. The added myelin will
insulate the pathway and make the neuro chemical synapses flow faster. Normal neuro synapsis will flow at an amazing
The last areas of the brain to myelinate are at the top of the brain called the upper cortices. Some of the main functions that
reside in the upper cortices are critical thinking, executive function (decision making), social skills and tact. Young children
or even adults with immature myelination or insult or injury in the upper and frontal cortices will have problems with critical
thinking, good decision making, social skills and tact.
Other problems with immature, underdeveloped or injured myelination in the brain will be cortical spillage (where the signals
from one area of the brain leak out to influence other areas), Tourrettes Syndrome (Where shorts in the myelin cause tics
and other involuntary movements or noises), hyperactivity (where the brain has to force extra signals down the pathways
causing an excess of generalized activity) and figiting (where the brain burns up excessive signals through voluntary
muscle or limb movements).
Myelination begins in the womb at about eighteen weeks of gestation and is a lifetime process but basically completes
around 23 years of age. For the developing fetus, EFA’s are provided at first by the diminishing yolk sac and then by the
flow of nutrients through the umbilical cord. After the baby is born the breast milk from the well nourished mother provides
the abundance of EFA’s needed for proper development. Once the infant is weaned it is now forever totally dependent upon
diet to provide what the brain needs. EFA’s are called essential fatty acids because, like water or air, they are essential for
life and health. The body cannot manufacture EFA’s from other products in the body. Deficiencies in EFA’s not only affect
brain and nerve development but also joint development and repair regardless of age.
The healthy brain by dry weight is up to 60% DHA (decosahexaenoic acid) which is an EFA (essential fatty acid).
MRI studies show that infants with developmental delays also have immature myelination patterns in the brain. Nursing
mothers and toddlers given supplemental EFAs to support early brain growth has proven to give the developing brain an
advantage. Studies have proven that infants and toddlers supplemented with EFAs have higher IQ’s, higher processing
abilities, better psychomotor function, eye hand coordination and even better acoustical stereo acuity. Studies with rats
have shown that feeding the pregnant mother lecithin (high in EFA) halfway through a pregnancy gave the consequent pups
a lifetime advantage in brain development and intelligence.
Breast feeding alone adds 5% to IQ scores compared to children that are bottle fed.
All through life the brain is losing millions and sometimes billions of brain cells at a time. Environmental toxins, viral, fungal
and bacterial pathogens, inhalants, food excito-toxins, gluten, alcohol, vaccine adjuvants, disinfectants, pharmaceutical
drugs, anesthetics, head trauma and even small head bumps and injuries can cause the loss of neuronal cells. It is not a
matter of “if” someone is losing brain cells but rather a matter of “”how many” brain cells are they losing. Keep in mind that
the unused pathways and neurons in the healthy brain atrophy and are pruned, discarded and removed from the brain.
Some symptoms of poor or damaged myelination can be; Hyperactivity Tourettes Syndrome, seizures, tics, tremors,
grunts, wheezes, stutters, involuntary movements, sinus arrhythmia, cortical spillage, poor coordination, poor development,
fidgeting, distractibility, ADHD, tongue chewing, rudeness, social dysfunction, nystagmus, carpal tunnel syndrome, joint
pain and neuropathies.
Authored by Neurodevelopment Consultant Craig Stellpflug NDC, CNC
Healing Pathways Medical Clinic Scottsdale, AZ
Copyright 2012 Craig Stellpflug© Permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute this article but only in its entirety