Neuroplasticity, how to favor the development of children leaving a trace

How does a child learn? What processes occur in the brains of the youngest children so that diverse knowledge remains in their minds? Knowing these mechanisms helps to encourage the development of children and promote the teaching process. In this sense the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, AEPap, offers an interesting concept: neuroplasticity.

This term refers to the brain's ability to "mold"to various situations, the ability to arm and strengthen or weaken and disarm neural networks in response to experience, a response to any stimulus that comes from outside and that can be used in favor of the youngest to encourage their learning process.

Creation of networks

To understand the concept of neuroplasticity, you have to know the structure of the brain, which has two types of cells: neurons and glial cells. These are linked together through the synapse, a process where they release a chemical that carries the information to the neighboring neuron.

Babies are born with almost all of the cells in their brains, but with few interconnections. Towards the 6 years, there is an important formation of neural networks with all the new information that the child is acquiring. In this phase, the brain is like a "sponge", absorbs everything, especially through imitation. These connections are organized by imitating the behavior, attitude, gestures, tone, words of the adult and everything that enters through their senses.

Neural networks consolidated they give rise to automatic conducts that are carried out quickly and unconsciously, without thinking or paying much attention. At first it is about slow acts that require a lot of attention from the person and it is with practice when they become habits that are carried out in an automated way.

In the case of children, which are learned by imitation, there occurs, in the brain of the child, neural networks that become guidelines on how to act. If this learning is reinforced, by repetition of stimulus, will become the habitual way of behaving of the child, something that can be exploited leaving aside routines such as shouting at home and betting on dialogue for example. You can also bet on routines that favor, in the long run, study habits.

Change of inappropriate habits

Neuroplasticity can not only be used to instill good routines in the smallest of the house. It is also a useful concept to vary the behaviors considered inappropriate in children, it must be taken into account that the creation of these routines can also be done by imitating other personalities such as those of their classmates.

Neuroplasticity is the basis for the change of inadequate habits. The first step is to recognize the negative pattern and find the source and thus avoid them as much as possible. This step not only refers to recognizing the stimuli that cause this behavior, but also in recognizing if a network is not used as much as it should be and is gradually losing the connections between the neurons that make it up, until it almost disappears.

In these cases you should bet on creating a new network that translates into an appropriate behavior, and that replaces the previous one. For this, the first step is to enhance the exposure to the stimulus that favors the formation of this new network. For example, a child who has the acquired habit of hitting each time he gets angry has a connection at the brain level that associates 'anger with violence'. To help you "unlearn" that automatic behavior, you should not encourage this circuit any more.

On the contrary, a new network must be created that substitute the old one. For example, violent stimuli coming from television should be minimized and at home you should check how resolving conflicts through dialogue is possible. Other options should also be given to anger so that the child learns to channel these emotions.

Damián Montero

Video: Emotional short-circuits: the intelligence behind mistakes | Daniela Lucangeli | TEDxMilano

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