Have you ever wondered how the brain comes to be? You’re not the only one. It’s the case with most parents who would like to get the biology experience outside class.
Quite a lot happens in the womb, and brain development is at the core. The baby’s brain grows at an incredible rate during pregnancy. At the end of the gestation period, we get a fully-developed brain that’s ready to take in new things.
However, brain development doesn’t stop at childbirth. It continues throughout a child’s lifetime. A newborn’s brain is like a blank page. It stores whatever information is given to it, and that’s still part of development.
Let’s look at the stages of baby brain development in the womb.
During the first trimester, there’s quite a lot of cell division going on. This leads to rapid growth and formation of some features, though the features aren’t so pronounced. At merely 16 days after conception, the neural plate forms. The neural plate is the foundation of the baby’s brain and the spinal cord. As the rapid cell division continues, the neural plate grows longer and folds onto itself, until the fold changes to a groove and the groove develops into a tube known as the neural tube. As soon as the neural tube closes, it bulges out to form the midbrain, the forebrain, and the hindbrain. This happens in the 7th week. Some special neural cells are also formed, which leads to the baby’s first synapses that create the early fetal movements.
By the end of the first trimester, all the major organs are in place and some motor skills have been developed.
During the second trimester, the baby’s brain begins to direct steady contractions of the diaphragm and the chest muscles. The baby now practices some breathing movements. At around 16 weeks, swallowing and sucking begins. And by the end of 21 weeks, the fetal natural reflexes cause them to swallow little amounts of the amniotic fluid, and this means the sense of taste is ready too.
At around 18 weeks, the baby develops their first kick, and you’ll the kicks for a few weeks. Towards the end of the second trimester, the part of the brain that controls heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure is fully developed. The fetal nervous system is also fully developed and the baby can now sense loud sounds outside the womb.
During this time, there’s rapid development of the neurons, and the brain roughly triples towards the end of the last 13 weeks. Its appearance also starts to change. The once smooth surface increasingly becomes grooved and dented so that it now looks like the normal human brain you see in pictures. Some thinking, remembering, and feeling is also developed during the third trimester, though this becomes useful after the baby is born. The last three months of gestation marks the end of fetal brain development.
As we mentioned earlier, brain development doesn’t stop at childbirth. It happens even when one is in their 30s.
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