Nurture Vs. Nature Essay, Research Paper
The human brain is a portion of the central nervous system and serves as the control center for movement, sleep, hunger, and virtually everything else vital and necessary to survive. Not only that, but the brain also controls all human emotions from fear and love, to elation and sorrow. It also receives and interprets countless signals from other parts of the body and the outside environment. Summarily, the brain makes us conscious, emotional, and intelligent. It’s no wonder that with everything going on in the brain, so much emphasis is placed on its development. We now know, from scientific research, that the brain grows at a rapid rate within the first years of an infant’s life. With this information in mind, one can’t help but ask how and when THEIR brain developed and did it eventually lead to the person they are this very day?
From birth, nearly every human being brain contains 100 billion neurons and 50 trillion connections. As stated in Begley’s “How to Build a Baby’s Brain”, “The genes the baby carries from the egg and sperm that made him- have already determined the brain’s basic wiring.” These genes are responsible for breathing, heart rate, and digestive activity. They are the fundamental building blocks of synapses to come. The months subsequent to birth are the most important as to synapse strengthening and growth. It is in these few months that the number of these synapses skyrockets to nearly 1,000 trillion. The only logical explanation for this phenomenon is experience. It is from these experiences that the synapses mature and strengthen. “At 20 months, children of chatty mothers average 131 more words than children of less talkative mothers… the critical factor is the number of times the child hears different words.” (Begley, p.31) Hence, the child forms synapses through learning from experience, such as observing their mother in conversation.
The structure of the brain is delicate, especially during the maturation years of development. If the brain is traumatized in any such way within the first years of childhood, those traumatic events will shape the brain as it would have they been jovial ones. These events change the structure of the brain in numerous ways. Though these changes are internal, they have a tremendous outcome on behavior as well. “Trauma elevates stress hormones, such as cortisol, that wash over the tender brain like acid, as a result, regions in the cortex and in the limbic system are 20 to 30 percent smaller in abused children than in normal kids.” (Begley, p.20) This 20 to 30 percent difference generates enough anxiety to induce spouts of stress hormones at the slightest thought or reminiscence of a previous traumatic situation. This kind of reaction often causes problems with attention, concentration, and impulsive behavior. The ability to learn can also be altered via early childhood trauma. It is from this trauma that neurotransmitters, “that play a key role in telling growing neurons where to go and what to connect to” (Begley, p.32), are matted and cause insufficiency in learning capabilities.
“Only in rare cases of extreme isolation is it possible to observe concretely separated two factors in the development of human personality which are always otherwise only analytically separated, the biogenic and the sociogenic factors.” (Davis, p.437) Therefore, the biological and sociological aspects of personality cannot be separated and are dependent upon each other. Just the same as a child were to be born with a mental deficiency, a child could suffer the same from not being stimulated in the early childhood years. As stated by Kagan on page 90 of Three Seductive Ideas, “Experience in the first year of life lays the basis for networks of neurons that enable us to be smart, creative, and adaptable in all the years that follow.” With this in mind, and the fact that every time a child experiences something stimulating new synapses are formed, it can be reasonably inferred a lack of such stimulation would have harmful effects on a child’s brain. This invigorating stimulus is what builds a personality, along with necessary social, vocal, physical, and cognitive skills. A child, such as Isabelle, in Davis’ “Final Note On a Case of Extreme Isolation,” whom received virtually no communication, light, nutrients, or stimulus behaved in such a way that all hope was lost as to her being a fully functional person equal to her age group. She displayed animosity towards strangers, couldn’t feed herself, walk properly, or speak, and all at the age of six years old. Isabella’s lack of stimulation and complete isolation caused a thwarting in her physical, emotional, and social growth due to the lack of synapse development. Without encouragement, all her developmental skills were stunted. Fortunately for Isabella’s sake, she was rescued and put into an extensive teaching program to enable her to be at par with her age group. Miraculously, within two years, she had learned the abilities that would have naturally taken six. Hence, one can conclude that isolation will inhibit the maturation of an individual within the first six to ten years of life, undoubtedly.
The brain serves as the primary operator of the body’s functions and behavior. With so much allotted responsibility, it is no small wonder that the development of the brain is so significant. This development of the brain has its peak maturation within the first year of life. Hence, whatever may happen to a child during that first year is absolutely going to leave a lasting imprint on that life. This occurs due to the advance of the synapses within the brain. In conclusion, experience does, in fact, strengthen the formation of the synapses; traumatic events do alter the structure of the brain, and a lack of stimulation or isolation garner harmful effects on physical growth, maturation, and socialization.