Read Your Baby’s Brain, Part 1: Nurture is as Important as Nature
Read Your Baby’s Brain, Part 2: Environmental Influences

Technology, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs), Computerized Tomography Scans (CT Scans), and Positive Emission Tomography (PET Scans), now offer the hard data indicating that experience and environment can change brain development. Brain formation is dependent on brain activity, and because the developing brain is plastic, each and every early childhood experience stimulates, both positively and negatively, its neural-connections.

Because the brain is highly efficient, it actually dumps neurons that are not being used while strengthening those that are used consistently. This process is called synaptic pruning, and makes it possible for your child to develop correctly. Though synaptic pruning extends through a normal lifetime, it is the most active during early childhood.

There are windows of opportunity when your child’s brain is highly susceptible to environmental experiences. During the ages of zero and 10, your child’s brain has twice as many connections than it will retain over his/her life. Your child will preserve only those connections that are reinforced through heightened experience. Further, those connections, not stimulated by mental and physical experiences, are discarded or pruned away.

It is those mental and physical sensory experiences, by themselves that establish the critical windows of opportunity in your child’s evolving brain. When your child repeats an experience, it establishes a track in his/her brain and if that experience is repeated consistently, the synaptic lesson will not be reversed. If these critical times for learning are missed, they may never be recovered.

For example, if your child has a hearing problem in the first few years of life that goes unrecognized or untreated, then he/she is tracking sound, rhythm, grammar, phonemes, and language usage incorrectly. Perhaps sound is muffled or missing the rhythm and intonation of your particular language. Thus, when hearing is corrected, your child will still retain the incorrect rhythm or intonation in his/her speech. And yet, if a speech pathologist is retained early enough, he/she may be able to remediate such a speech disorder.

Additionally, the important window specifically for language acquisition begins to shut down by the age of five. Children can learn many languages simply by being exposed to them during the language window of opportunity, and they can learn those languages simultaneously. However, if your child is introduced to and acquires a new language at the onset of adolescence, then that language will be spoken with a foreign accent because your child did not track that language during the optimal window for language acquisition.

These critical periods impact all of learning, including visual development, social/emotional development, intellectual development, sensory and motor development, musical ability, and so on.

Coming up in the final installation of this blog series, we’ll discuss how parents are the ultimate gene therapists.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.