“We’re living in the midst of a revolution in neuroscience, molecular biology and genomics,” said Dr. Jack Shonkoff, chairman of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, at Tuesday’s “Breakthrough Research on Building Better Brains” presentation in Atlanta. The lecture, sponsored by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Speaker Series and the national nonprofit research center Child Trends, focused on the influence of “toxic stress” on the development of children, which Dr. Shonkoff called both a major psychological and physiological detriment to youngsters. He began the presentation by speaking about the “plasticity” of brains for young children, which he said is firmly influenced by early childhood experiences. “Early life experiences are built into our bodies, for better or for worse,” Dr. Shonkoff said. “Things that happen early in life are creating physiological changes later on.”
He said children that experience a lack of response from adults, primarily parental figures, in their formative “birth-to-5” years are much likelier to suffer from “toxic stress,” which he said may potentially weaken neuroconnectors in the brain.