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Brain-building Strategies-Help Kids Grow Smarter

For sheer learning potential, the brain of a child surpasses any man made super computer. Researchers and child development experts agree. there are a number of ways parents can help children make the most of their natural brainpower.

Herein are some of the most important vertebrate brain components, along with a brief description of their functions as currently understood:

  • The medulla, along with the spinal cord, contains many small nuclei involved in a wide variety of sensory and involuntary motor functions such as vomiting, heart rate and digestive processes.

  • The pons lies in the brainstem directly above the medulla. Among other things, it contains nuclei that control often voluntary but simple acts such as sleep, respiration, swallowing, bladder function, equilibrium, eye movement, facial expressions, and posture.

  • The hypothalamus is a small region at the base of the forebrain, whose complexity and importance belies its size. It is composed of numerous small nuclei, each with distinct connections and neurochemistry.The hypothalamus is engaged in additional involuntary or partially voluntary acts such as sleep and wake cycles, eating and drinking, and the release of some hormones.

  • The thalamus is a collection of nuclei with diverse functions: some are involved in relaying information to and from the cerebral hemispheres, while others are involved in motivation. The subthalamic area (zona incerta) seems to contain action-generating systems for several types of "consummatory" behaviors such as eating, drinking, defecation, and copulation.

  • The cerebellum modulates the outputs of other brain systems, whether motor-related or thought related, to make them certain and precise. Removal of the cerebellum does not prevent an animal from doing anything in particular, but it makes actions hesitant and clumsy.This precision is not built-in but learned by trial and error. The muscle coordination learned while riding a bicycle is an example of a type of neural plasticity that may take place largely within the cerebellum.10% of the brain's total volume consists of the cerebellum and 50% of all neurons are held within its structure.

  • The optic tectum allows actions to be directed toward points in space, most commonly in response to visual input. In mammals, it is usually referred to as the superior colliculus, and its best-studied function is to direct eye movements. It also directs reaching movements and other object-directed actions. It receives strong visual inputs, but also inputs from other senses that are useful in directing actions, such as auditory input in owls and input from the thermosensitive pit organs in snakes. In some primitive fishes, such as lampreys, this region is the largest part of the brain. The superior colliculus is part of the midbrain.

  • The pallium is a layer of grey matter that lies on the surface of the forebrain and is the most complex and most recent evolutionary development of the brain as an organ. In reptiles and mammals, it is called the cerebral cortex. Multiple functions involve the pallium, including smell and spatial memory. In mammals, where it becomes so large as to dominate the brain, it takes over functions from many other brain areas. In many mammals, the cerebral cortex consists of folded bulges called gyri that create deep furrows or fissures called sulci. The folds increase the surface area of the cortex and therefore increase the amount of gray matter and the amount of information that can be stored and processed.

  • The hippocampus, strictly speaking, is found only in mammals. However, the area it derives from, the medial pallium, has counterparts in all vertebrates. There is evidence that this part of the brain is involved in complex events such as spatial memory and navigation in fishes, birds, reptiles, and mammals.

  • The basal ganglia are a group of interconnected structures in the forebrain. The primary function of the basal ganglia appears to be action selection: they send inhibitory signals to all parts of the brain that can generate motor behaviors, and in the right circumstances can release the inhibition, so that the action-generating systems are able to execute their actions. Reward and punishment exert their most important neural effects by altering connections within the basal ganglia.

  • The olfactory bulb is a special structure that processes olfactory sensory signals and sends its output to the olfactory part of the pallium. It is a major brain component in many vertebrates, but is greatly reduced in humans and other primates (whose senses are dominated by information acquired by sight rather than smell.. Mental and physical exercises, as well as brain-enhancing nutrition, can aid parents in nurturing their children’s natural abilities. Parents should keep some important things in mind when choosing activities and foods that will help cultivate children’s mental acuity. First, reading is a powerful, brain-boosting tool for children of all ages. Studies show that individuals who build strong reading skills in childhood continue to reap the benefits throughout their lives. Second, by providing age-appropriate play throughout each stage of childhood, parents can promote physical health and foster interpersonal skills. Finally, nutrition is directly linked to physical and mental health, and research illustrates how children with poor nutritional habits do not perform as well in school as their better-nourished peers. Courtesy Stanford University Medical Cente and World Science staff:

Playing with your young children is the best way to make them into smart adults, researchers say—beating trendy toys, classes or music as a brain-building strategy for preschoolers.

Children’s foremost need is a secure relationship with an adult who loves them, said Eric Knudsen of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford,Calif. “It’s all about playing with your child,” he added. A paper online issue of the research journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details the findings, by Knudsen and three other members of the U.S. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. The council, based at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., is a group of 12 scientists from across the United States in the field of early childhood development. The paper draws on past research in economics, neurobiology, developmental psychology and public policy. The authors said that working independently; they concluded that the earliest years of life forever shape an adult’s ability to learn. The capacity for change in the foundations of skill development and brain circuitry “is highest earlier in life and decreases over time,” the authors wrote. A child’s eventual ability to learn calculus or a second language, Knudsen said, starts with brain cells shaped by positive interactions with nurturing adults, well before school begins. Nutrition Nutrition is directly linked to physical health and mental performance. Studies have shown that children with poor nutritional habits do not perform as well in school as their better-nourished peers. To promote good nutrition, parents should:

- Lead by example. The best way to teach children good nutritional habits is to follow them yourself in your home. -Make sure children get the recommended daily allowance of brain-building “good fats”

– Omega 3 and DHA. Both are essential for proper brain development, especially in toddlers and preschoolers. - Follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Recommended Dietary Allowance guidelines as much as possible. - Kids can be picky eaters so vitamin supplements can help parents ensure kids are consuming the nutrients they need. Products like L’il Critters Gummy Vites and L’il Critters Omega-3 Gummy Fish can help children get the brain-building nutrients they need by making nutrition flavorful and fun for even the most finicky eaters.

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