Brain Development

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Em
  • Created on: 16-04-16 11:41

Adaptive Plasticity

  • The ability of the brain to compensate for lost function in the event of brain injury 
  • It can occur through repeated everyday activities
    • For exampls, a violinist will have a larger area of the somatosensory cortex represented of the left hand because it needs more motor control than the right
    • This happens if the violinst plays everday and repeats the actions 
  • The brain recovers by rerouting or sprouting 
1 of 7

Brain Plasticity

  • Refers to the brain's ability to change (for better of for worse) at any age, in response to an experience 
  • The whole brain doesn't change, neural pathways form or link up with existing pathways and these existing pathways may interconnect with othe pathways
  • Involves neurons and glial cells 
  • Sensory and motor cortices hae a higher level of plasticity than others 
2 of 7

Rerouting and Sprouting

  • These processes allow the formation of new neural connections to compensate for the loss of a function.
  • The nuerons need to be stimulated, patients with injury (stroke) need to relearn tasks they learnt previously 


  • An undamaged neuron that has lost a connection with an active neuron will seek a new active neuron and connect to it 


  • The growth of additional branches on axon terminals or dendrites to enable new connections 
3 of 7

Synaptogenesis and Synaptic Pruning


  • Accounts for most of the brain's growth in size and involves the formation of new synapses (the place where messages are passed from axon terminals to dendrites) between neurons
  • Occurs more quickly in sensory and motor areas, this allows the brain to have the capability to respond to new environmental input (sights, sounds, smells etc)

Synaptic Pruning 

  • The process of eliminating synaptic connections that are weak or unused
  • It is a long process continuing for many years in different areas of the brain at different times 
  • Tends to happen in the sensory areas first 
  • Valuable synaptic connections and ones that are strengthened through repetition are kept 
4 of 7


  • The growth and development of white, fatty myelin around the axons
  • Contributes to the increase in brain size 
  • Allows the neurons to be more efficient in sending messages to other neurons (however not all axons are myelinated)
  • Starts before birth and during fetal development 
  • Continues through childhood, adolescence and adulthood 
  • There is a burst of myelination shortly after birth (axons are longer and with more axon terminals) and during adolesence 
  • Typically emerges in the hindbrain and spreads over time into the midbrain and forebrain 
  • Sensory and motor areas are myelinated first
  • Frontal and temportal lobes are last 
5 of 7

Spatial Neglect

  • A neurological disorder where individuals are unable to notice anything on their left or right side 
  • Most commonly observed in victims of stroke or accidents with extensive injury to the cerebral cortex in the rear of the parietal lobe in the right hemisphere (spatial neglect of the left side, don't notice anything on their left side because right hemisphere is injured)
  • The higher incidence of spatal neglect when there is injury to the right rather than left parietal lobe demonstrates the importance of the right parietal lobe in attention and awareness of objects and self
  • Spatial neglect of the right side (individual's don't notice anything on their right) sometimes occurs after damage to the left hemisphere or subcortica areas, but it is less frequent and in a milder form
6 of 7

The Prefrontal Cortex

  • Is an association area loacted just behind the forehead 
  • Is the last part of the brain to mature fully 
  • Responsible for more advanced 'higher level' mental functions
    • Planning ahead
    • Reasoning 
    • Organisation skills
    • Solving problems 
    • Making decisions etc
  • During the 'teenage years' (16-20 years old) there is a hightened level of synaptic pruning in the frontal lobe (this includes the prefrontal cortex)
  • Scientists think this is the reason for teenagers' irrational and risky behaviour (the limbic system, the emotional and motivational centre of the brain, is also active)
7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Psychology resources »