Children's Brains Can Change

Part Two:  How the Developing Brain is Wired

When I began my practice over eight years ago, a mom of a special needs child strongly recommended that I read the book Disconnected Kids by Dr.Robert Melillo, a world-renowned chiropractic neurologist, professor, and researcher in childhood neurological disorders. The groundbreaking ideas which Dr. Melillo shared became one of the pillars of my practice. Instead of viewing each neurological disorder in isolation, I began to look for the tie that binds.  It has revolutionized my approach in working with special needs children. 

Did you know that a baby’s brain is made up of 100 billion brain cells?  Did you also know that a baby’s brain is not complete; it has a long way to GROW?  As brain cells (neurons) mature, they get larger and stronger, making tentacle-like connections with each other so that life-giving information can be shared.

These vital connections are known as synapses. Listen as Dr. Melillo reveals the key to healthy synapses:  “…synaptic connections do not just magically happen. Synapses are dependent on two things for formation and growth: fuel, in the form of oxygen and glucose [food] and stimulation.”   Importantly, all the good brain food, alone, will not make brain cells grow - only stimulation does!  No stimulation = no brain growth.  In fact, without stimulation, brain cells will degenerate and die. 

What is meant by stimulation? Although the brain can create some self-stimulation (dreams), it is primarily dependent on outside sources for stimulation.  Light, sound, vibration, odor, taste, temperature, touch, pressure, and gravity are the outside sources of environmental stimuli that the brain needs to grow.  The greatest of these is gravity because it provides constant stimulation to the muscles.  According to Dr. Melillo, “repeated muscle activity is the single most important element of brain development.” 

If the brain and its synapses do not develop properly - due to lack of stimulation - the right and left hemispheres of the brain become out-of-sync.  In the words of Dr. Melillo, “To fully understand the world and react to it, a child must use both sides of the brain as a whole.”  An out-of-sync brain manifests itself in learning, behavioral, and social dysfunctions. 

In short, be of good courage.  The science of the 1970s proved that the brain can change both physically and chemically in response to certain types of activity.   So, get moving!

(Part three in this series will address what happens when the brain misfires.)