Global Compact for EC Development (2017)

Global Compact for EC Development

April 2017

Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale
October 4, 2016


Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development

3. Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development
Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
Sep 29, 2011

Learning how to cope with adversity is an important part of healthy development. While moderate, short-lived stress responses in the body can promote growth, toxic stress is the strong, unrelieved activation of the body’s stress management system in the absence of protective adult support. Without caring adults to buffer children, the unrelenting stress caused by extreme poverty, neglect, abuse, or severe maternal depression can weaken the architecture of the developing brain, with long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.

This video is part three of a three-part series titled “Three Core Concepts in Early Development” from the Center and the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. The series depicts how advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics now give us a much better understanding of how early experiences are built into our bodies and brains, for better or for worse. Healthy development in the early years provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, strong communities, and successful parenting of the next generation.

Also from the “Three Core Concepts in Early Development” Series

1. Experiences Build Brain Architecture:

2. Serve & Return Interaction Shapes Brain Circuitry:

For more information, please visit:

Development of Executive Function in Youth

Modular Segregation of Structural Brain Networks Supports the Development of Executive Function in Youth
Current Biology , May 2017
Graham L. Baum, et al.

The human brain is organized into large-scale functional modules that have been shown to evolve in childhood and adolescence.
However, it remains unknown whether the underlying white matter architecture is similarly refined during development, potentially allowing for improvements in executive function.
In a sample of 882 participants (ages 8–22) who underwent diffusion imaging as part of the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, we demonstrate that structural network modules become more segregated with age, with weaker connections between modules and stronger connections within modules.
Evolving modular topology facilitates global network efficiency and is driven by age-related strengthening of hub edges present both within and between modules.
Critically, both modular segregation and network efficiency are associated with enhanced executive performance and mediate the improvement of executive functioning with age. Together, results delineate a process of structural network maturation that supports executive function in youth.

journalistic version:

What Sleeping Babies Hear

What Sleeping Babies Hear
A Functional MRI Study of Interparental Conflict and Infants’ Emotion Processing
Alice M. Graham, et al.

Experiences of adversity in the early years of life alter the developing brain.
However, evidence documenting this relationship often focuses on severe stressors and relies on peripheral measures of neurobiological functioning during infancy.

In the present study, we employed functional MRI during natural sleep to examine associations between a more moderate environmental stressor (nonphysical interparental conflict) and 6- to 12-month-old infants’ neural processing of emotional tone of voice.
The primary question was whether interparental conflict experienced by infants is associated with neural responses to emotional tone of voice, particularly very angry speech.

Results indicated that maternal report of higher interparental conflict was associated with infants’ greater neural responses to very angry relative to neutral speech across several brain regions implicated in emotion and stress reactivity and regulation (including rostral anterior cingulate cortex, caudate, thalamus, and hypothalamus).

These findings suggest that even moderate environmental stress may be associated with brain functioning during infancy.

Keywords: psychological stress, neuroimaging, emotional development, infant development

journalistic version:
Shhh, The Kids Can Hear You Arguing (Even When They’re Asleep)
April 29, 2013

Well, let’s assume he can do everything

Clues To Autism, Schizophrenia Emerge From Cerebellum Research
March 17, 2015·

“Putting together a puzzle of a face,” Sherman says, “he initially had put the eyes in the wrong place and then looked at my face and said, ‘Oh, no, your nose actually goes between your eyes.’ ”
But during that time doctors and developmental health experts still didn’t know why Jonathan was having so much trouble. And that turned out to be a good thing, says his father, Richard. “Not knowing what the diagnosis was we said, ‘Well, let’s assume he can do everything,’ ” he says.

Intelligence changes 20 points in the teenage brain

Motor speech area. Anterior cerebellum.

Verbal and non-verbal intelligence changes in the teenage brain
Nature  479, 113–116 (03 November 2011)
Sue Ramsden,… Cathy J. Price

Intelligence quotient (IQ) is a standardized measure of human intellectual capacity that takes into account a wide range of cognitive skills. IQ is generally considered to be stable across the lifespan, with scores at one time point used to predict educational achievement and employment prospects in later years.
Neuroimaging allows us to test whether unexpected longitudinal fluctuations in measured IQ are related to brain development.

Here we show that verbal and non-verbal IQ can rise or fall in the teenage years, with these changes in performance validated by their close correlation with changes in local brain structure.
A combination of structural and functional imaging showed that verbal IQ changed with grey matter in a region that was activated by speech, whereas non-verbal IQ changed with grey matter in a region that was activated by finger movements.
By using longitudinal assessments of the same individuals, we obviated the many sources of variation in brain structure that confound cross-sectional studies.
This allowed us to dissociate neural markers for the two types of IQ and to show that general verbal and non-verbal abilities are closely linked to the sensorimotor skills involved in learning.
More generally, our results emphasize the possibility that an individual’s intellectual capacity relative to their peers can decrease or increase in the teenage years.
This would be encouraging to those whose intellectual potential may improve, and would be a warning that early achievers may not maintain their potential.

cited by:
Understanding Psychology © 2014

journalistic versions:
As Brain Changes, So Can IQ
October 20, 2011
The varying IQ scores could also indicate the test itself is flawed.
“It could be a real index of how intelligence varies or it could suggest our measures of intelligence are so variable,” said neuroimaging pioneer B.J. Casey at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College, who wasn’t involved in the study.

IQ is not fixed in the teenage brain
19 October 2011
The test results revealed dramatic changes: between their first testing and their second, the teens’ verbal and nonverbal IQ scores rose or fell by as many as 20 points (on a scale for which the average is 100).