Baby brain development

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Your baby begins life as a small collection of stem cells. Maybe you’ve heard of stem cells? These powerful cells have the ability to multiply and develop into different types of cells that fit specific roles inside the body – for example blood cells, tissue and nerve cells. The very first step in your baby’s brain development is the creation of “neural stem cells”, which will transform to create every part of the brain and central nervous system.

This fetus has some nerve…

The nervous system is a collection of millions of cells called neurons, which branch out and connect across the entire body, sending signals to the brain and relaying messages back. In fact, babies are born with 100 billion neurons – almost all the neurons they will ever need in their lifetime.

Throughout your baby’s development, neural stem cells will travel around their body and knit together to form the nervous system. Tickle your baby’s foot and the nervous system sends a signal to their brain letting them know that they are being touched. After receiving the signal, their brain will send out a message that it’s time to laugh so the playing can continue.

Mind out of matter

At around three weeks after conception, an early brain structure called the neural plate forms. Soon this flat collection of cells expands, folds on itself, and becomes the neural tube, which is the precursor to the brain and spinal cord.

Healthy neural tube development is linked to moms having high amounts of folate in their system, which is why you’ll find folate in most prenatal vitamins.

At around 7 weeks the neural tube closes, and the five major sections of the brain begin to take shape:

  • Brain stem: Connects the brain to the spinal cord and handles all involuntary actions like breathing and digestion.
  • Cerebrum: Controls voluntary muscle movement, and makes up 85% of the brain’s weight.
  • Cerebellum: Located at the back of the brain, it controls balance and the coordination of muscles working together.
  • Hypothalamus: Manages the body’s temperature, and actions like sweating or shivering.
  • Pituitary gland: Regulates all the hormones in the body.

Getting in the groove

At first a baby’s brain is smooth. The first “wrinkle” appears at about 8 weeks and goes right down the middle, creating the left and right hemispheres.

From 16 to 28 weeks the brain will just about double in size. Once your baby arrives, their brain development is far from done! Their brain will grow four times its size from ages two to five, and will be at about 90% of its adult size by age 6.

Thinking ahead

It’s pretty amazing to think how your baby’s development all starts with those early stem cells. The same stem cells responsible for your baby’s brain development can actually be used in medicine to help heal disease and repair damaged cells in the body.

Our partners at ViaCord empower families to think forward about their family’s health by collecting and saving the stem cells found in their newborn’s cord blood. ViaCord’s collection kit gives your healthcare provider all the materials needed to collect your baby’s cord blood after delivery. The stem cells are then frozen and stored at ViaCord’s laboratory, and there for your family if you ever need them.

Cord blood stem cells have been used in transplant medicine for almost 30 years to help treat nearly eighty diseases, including certain cancers, blood disorders, and genetic diseases.* Over the last few years, new applications using cord blood stem cells have been discovered. For instance, there’s exciting new research in regenerative medicine using cord blood stem cells to help children with autism and cerebral palsy.*

If you want to learn more about how cord blood stem cells can possibly benefit your family, tap the button below to get a cord blood information kit from ViaCord. If you decide to bank your babies cord blood with ViaCord, be sure to use code OVIA150 to save $150.

Get info kit

This ad is brought to you by ViaCord

  • Moise K Jr. Umbilical cord stem cells. Obstet Gynecol. 2005;106(6):1393-1407.
  • Jessica Sun, MD, Mohamad Mikati, MD, Jesse Troy, PhD, Kathryn Gustafson, PhD, Ryan Simmons, MS, Ricki Goldstein, MD, Jodi Petry, MS, OTR/L, Colleen McLaughlin, DNP, Barbara Waters-Pick, BS, MT(ASCP), Laura Case, PT, DPT, Gordon Worley, MD and Joanne Kurtzberg, MD. “Autologous Cord Blood Infusion for the Treatment of Brain Injury in Children with Cerebral Palsy.” Oral and Poster Abstracts presentation. 57th American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and Exposition; December 7, 2015; Orlando, FL. Abstract 925.
  • Jessica M. Sun, Joanne Kurtzberg. “Cord blood for brain injury.” Cytotherapy, 2015; 17: 775-785
  • Joan Stiles and Terry L. Jernigan. “The Basics of Brain Development”. Neuropsychol Rev. Nov 2010. 10.1007/s11065-010-9148-4.
  • The Urban Child Institute. “Baby’s brain begins now: Conception to age 3.” 2017.
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