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Safe and Natural Ways that Can Improve Mental Focus and Concentration

Your ability to stay focused on a goal is critical to your success. To quote Albert Einstein, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." The world is full of distractions, and people who dominate in their fields have mastered navigating them. To accomplish great things, you must do as they've done and develop a laser-sharp mental focus. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford, says that focus is the strongest driving agent of neuroplasticity.

This article was written to help success-driven people understand the mechanisms behind mental concentration and present scientifically-based approaches that can improve brain health.

 

Contents

What Is Mental FocusThe Best Nutrients for Boosting Mental FocusThe Worst Foods for Brain Health Brain Structures that Contribute to Mental ConcentrationFactors Affecting Mental FocusWays to Improve Focus & Concentration

What Is Mental Focus?

Mental focus is the ability to stay on a thought or task until it is complete, but it is not really as straightforward as it sounds. Every second, an infinite number of objects in the environment can bombard the brain through the senses. Picking only one to concentrate on is not easy, as the rest can become distractions. Unwavering mental concentration can only come from a healthy brain with structures working together in total harmony. Distraction ensues when it is thrown off-balance.

The Best Nutrients for
Boosting Mental Focus

 Alpha-Glycerophocholine
  • Found abundantly in eggs.
  • Source of choline and acetylcholine.
  • Choline is involved in fat production and metabolism. It is a building block of cell membranes and the myelin sheath, which speed up brain cell communication.
  • Acetylcholine powers up the memory, visual focus, muscle contraction and many other body functions.
 Curcumin
  • Turmeric is a rich source. Also present in curry.
  • It increases brain levels of BDNF, which stimulates neurogenesis and synaptogenesis, two processes necessary for learning and adaptation.
  • Stabilizes the mood by balancing dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels.
  • Enhances immunity and protects from toxins.
 Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Abundant sources include fatty fish and walnuts.
  • DHA is the predominant fat in brain cell fatty membranes, aiding in signal transmission.
  • Both DHA and EPA counter inflammation.

puzzle nutrients

 Uridine
  • Dark vegetables like broccoli have high levels.
  • Important in RNA and DNA synthesis. These molecules direct the production of proteins, hormones and neurotransmitters.
  • Involved in immunity and the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

 Vitamin C
  • Rich sources are citrus fruits.
  • Aids in the production of hormones, neurotransmitters and proteins.
  • Involved in brain cell carbohydrate metabolism.
  • A powerful antioxidant and immunity enhancer.
 Trans-Resveratrol
  • Found in high amounts in grapes and berries.
  • Boosts immunity and neutralizes toxic free radicals.

The Worst Foods for
Brain Health

  Simple Sugars
  • Found in table sugar, candies, pastries, sweetened beverages, etc.
  • Provide a transient energy spike. The rapid energy reduction that follows causes drowsiness and distractibility.
  • Chronically high blood glucose levels lead to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), resulting in cardiovascular and neurologic deterioration over time.
  Fats That Form Bad Cholesterol
  • Include saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.
  • Foods found in the standard American diet, such as pizza, burgers, and junk food, are high sources.
  • Form cholesterol plaques that reduce brain blood flow. Plaques increase the risk of developing stroke, hypertension and vascular dementia.

  Sodium
  • Found in salty foods.
  • Mostly necessary for various bodily functions, even neuronal signaling.
  • However, a high-sodium diet is associated with hypertension, stroke and vascular dementia.

puzzle-yellow

  Refined Carbohydrates
  • Found in white rice, white bread, cakes, etc.
  • Also provide a brief glucose boost that leads to energy crash and loss of focus.
  • Increase vulnerability to T2DM.

   Alcohol
  • Present in hard liquor, alcoholic brews, wines, etc.
  • Impairs coordination and alertness, making it dangerous to take when driving, operating equipment and others.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome—severe thiamine depletion resulting from chronic alcohol abuse. Symptoms include memory deficits, confabulation, confusion, incoordination, abnormal eye movements, etc.
  • Delirium Tremens—a potentially fatal manifestation of alcohol withdrawal that leads to seizures and loss of consciousness.
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome—mental retardation and physical deformities resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure.
  • Liver Cirrhosis and Cancer—the liver is the worst-hit organ after an alcohol binge. Liver damage increases the levels of ammonia and other toxins that can injure the brain.

What Brain Structures Contribute to Concentration?

Neuroscience tells us that, not just one, but different parts of the brain are responsible for mental focus and concentration. The most important ones are the following:

  Reticular activating system (RAS)

The RAS consists of scattered nerve areas in the brainstem controlling wakefulness. It is normally regulated by the circadian rhythm—more commonly known as the "body clock"—which relies on the brain's perception of day-night cycles.

Ever wondered about what gives rise to jet lag? You guessed it. It's the RAS simply adjusting to time zone movements. You cannot fully focus when you're sleepy. So you need to jumpstart your RAS to concentrate on a task.

  Hippocampus

This structure is vital to learning, memory and adaptation. It helps you identify the objects you perceive and recall what you did in the past when you first encountered them.

For example, we did not all drive smoothly when we were first starting to learn the skill. We weren't all experts at getting past humps, sharp curves and difficult parking. Yet, we kept learning until these challenges rarely bothered us anymore.

Practice makes perfect, and it is the hippocampus's job to make it so. Stronger hippocampal connections help you concentrate more on your goals and not on the distractions.

  Sensory processing centers

These centers are found on the sides of the cerebrum, the uppermost part of the brain. They are your microprocessors, and their job is to help you understand your environment and plan your next move.

For example, you have a report that is due in a few hours, but you ran out of printer ink. You go to the store and realize that there are a lot of different kinds. How long does it take you to decide which one to buy? Your microprocessors' analytical efficiency is an essential component of mental focus.

  Frontal and prefrontal lobes

These two sit atop the cerebrum and are in charge of most cognitive functions, such as attention, judgment, long-term planning, motivation and problem-solving. They decide what to pay attention to, for how long and why. Anything that slows down or disrupts their activities can break mental focus.

For instance, the Rubik’s cube is one of the world’s toughest puzzles. Some people can figure it out within minutes, but others can take much longer. Then there are those who would never even try because of the lack of tangible rewards.

People who are easily distracted may be low on neurotransmitters—or brain chemicals—in these lobes. Luckily, there are natural fixes for such deficiencies.

  Astrocytes

The astrocytes are cells surrounding brain tissue. They regulate its supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients. Recent evidence shows that the astrocytes also play a significant role in learning and adaptation.

So these are the structures that control mental focus. The next section will enlighten you on what can boost and slow them down.

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What Are the Different Factors Affecting Mental Focus?

Numerous elements affect concentration, but we'll discuss only the most important ones here.

  Wakefulness

This is the primary function of the RAS. It is mainly regulated by our body clock. A good amount of quality sleep will energize the RAS. Stimulants perk it up while sedatives can switch it off. Most medical conditions can inhibit the RAS, causing sleep problems and daytime drowsiness.

Omega-3 oils help modulate the RAS’ activity. For example, a diet rich in the omega-3 oil DHA is known to improve sleep quality and quantity among young children. Likewise, DHA supplementation in the elderly has been found to improve both their sleeping habits and cognitive function.

  Sugar levels

Glucose, a tiny carbohydrate molecule, is the brain's main fuel, hence the expression "sugar high." Fasting decreases blood glucose levels, and so hungry people may experience lightheadedness and difficulty concentrating. On the other hand, too much glucose can also slow the brain down.

Eating healthy can minimize sugar fluctuations. Additionally, curcumin, a substance extracted from the natural spice turmeric, can protect against the harmful effects of excess glucose in the brain. Vitamin C has a similar effect.

  Hydration status

About 60% of the human body is water. It cools down the tissues, eliminates waste and speeds up brain processes. We lose water through our sweat, breath and body wastes. Breastfeeding mothers lose more of it in milk.

Too little or too much water can slow down mental performance. Your brain needs just the right amount to function optimally.

  Electrolyte levels

Many electrolytes are vital to normal bodily function. They are charged particles that can enter the brain anytime through the blood. Their levels can increase or decrease, depending on your water consumption, eating habits, physical activity, medication intake, etc.

Sodium and calcium are the most important electrolytes impacting mental performance, although others may also have indirect effects. Balanced sodium and calcium levels are good for the brain, while too much or too little can have harmful consequences.

  Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that influence various mental functions. For brain health, we always want balanced amounts of these chemicals. The neurotransmitters crucial to mental performance are the following:

  Acetylcholine

Acetylcholine is a chemical that is distributed throughout the body and is responsible for moving the muscles, controlling the heartbeat, digesting food, etc. In the brain, it sharpens mental focus by controlling the impulses within the RAS, sensory processing centers and the hippocampus.

Acetylcholine imbalance causes sleep problems, weakens the memory and impairs mental focus. Incidentally, this neurotransmitter is derived from alpha-glycerophosphocholine, which is enhanced by the intake of legumes. Alpha-glycerophosphocholine is more effective in generating acetylcholine than similar molecules in the diet because the brain's fatty layers easily absorb it.

  Dopamine

This neurotransmitter is responsible for reward-motivated behavior, pleasure, and attention, exerting its cognitive effects in the frontal and prefrontal lobes. Dopamine deficiency results in poor mental focus and a lack of motivation. Elevated levels lead to mental and psychological imbalance.

  GABA

GABA is widely distributed in the brain and generally reduces its activity. GABA action can put you to sleep and slow down mental performance.

  Glutamate

Glutamate is mostly responsible for learning and memory. It occurs in large amounts in the hippocampus and cerebrum, lesser in other parts of the nervous system.

Excess glutamate activity is harmful to the brain. However, increasing curcumin, vitamin C and DHA in the diet can prevent this neurotransmitter’s toxic effects.

  Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine's structure and effects are similar to those of caffeine. Abundant levels of this neurotransmitter are found in the RAS and prefrontal lobe. In the RAS, it increases wakefulness. In the prefrontal lobe, it enhances the attention span and elevates the mood. Norepinephrine is found in smaller quantities in other areas of the brain where it speeds up reaction time.

Depressed norepinephrine levels thus lead to drowsiness, confusion, distractibility, low moods and slow reaction time.

Curcumin improves mood by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels. Studies show that people who regularly take curcumin have sharper cognition. Vitamin C is another nutrient that helps elevate mood by enhancing norepinephrine production.

  Overall nutrition

Good eating habits are essential to mental and psychological health. Busy people tend to neglect this aspect of self-care, not realizing that its positive effects go beyond the physical.

Studies have consistently shown that proper nutrition heals both the body and mind. It improves mood among diabetics and problem-solving skills among children and adolescents. High-quality diets promote neurotransmitter balance. Meanwhile, fast food and junk food, which make up the standard American diet, can reverse these effects.

With good nutrition, you get just the right amount of vitamins and electrolytes to power up your brain. You also get good sources of carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids, which are the brain's building blocks. All these help sharpen your mental focus.

  Environmental Exposures

Environmental pollutants are toxic to all body cells, and various types can penetrate the brain and cause injury. Constant, tiny exposures will take their toll and manifest as cognitive dysfunction, mood swings or both.

Car emissions, cigarette smoke and industrial waste are the most common sources. They contain substances that can make you ill, such as heavy metals, free radicals and carbon gases. Additionally, poor sanitation can cause infections, allergies and other diseases.

  Neurogenesis

This term means "formation of new nerve cells." Brain neurogenesis mostly occurs when babies are still inside the womb. Age significantly slows down the process, to the point that damaged brain cells become nearly impossible to replace.

However, recent studies show that some neurogenesis regularly takes place in the hippocampus, which is presumed to be linked to its role in learning and adaptation. Constant stimulation enhances neurogenesis and mental focus. Regular intake of curcumin can also induce neurogenesis and improve memory.

  Stress and inflammation

Stress is a manifestation of an imbalance. In the mind, it can be from thoughts that get your neurotransmitters and emotions out of whack. In the body, it can trigger inflammation.

Prolonged inflammation leads to immune imbalance, releasing oxygen free radicals that are toxic to the body. Oxygen free radicals produce body pains, weakness and more disease. They can also kill off cells, including those of the brain. All these combined can reduce mental efficiency.

Vitamin C and curcumin have brain-protective antioxidant properties. Trans-resveratrol, which is naturally found in grapes, can also capture oxygen free radicals that are toxic to the brain.

  Medical conditions

Medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes can also induce inflammation, make people feel weaker and reduce their ability to focus. They should be properly managed to protect brain health.

  Blood supply

The blood distributes nutrients and oxygen to all parts of the body, including the brain. Optimum nutrient and oxygen levels enhance mental function, whereas low levels do the opposite. Higher intake of trans-resveratrol and vitamin C can also improve brain circulation and mental performance.

  Structural integrity

Keeping brain tissue healthy ensures optimum mental performance. A balanced diet provides building blocks and protective antioxidants to the brain, promoting tissue health. Additionally, good eating habits increase alpha-glycerophosphocholine, uridine, and omega-3 oils, which also support the brain structures. The omega-3 oil DHA is crucial to brain development from fetal life to early adulthood.

Conversely, brain strain may occur after a sports injury, car crash or severe illness. Brain injury can diminish the ability to focus if left without regeneration and dietary changes.

  Neuroplasticity

"Neuroplasticity" is a fancy term for the brain's ability to learn and adapt. It involves the regeneration or re-wiring of neural connections. Constant stimulation strengthens neural connections, whereas lack of use causes them to be "pruned out."

Neuroplasticity is best exhibited when physical therapists work their magic on their patients. By exposure to increasingly challenging drills, many individuals heal and get back to their previous functional level. The brain is a plastic organ, molded by stimulation and the nutrients that you feed it.

BDNF is a molecule in the brain that promotes neuroplasticity. Studies show that BDNF protects against brain aging. Its secretion is enhanced by exercise and increased consumption of omega-3 oils and curcumin.

Learning about these factors can help you understand why some mental focus fixes work while others don't.

Ways to Improve Mental Focus and Concentration

Without further ado, below are our recommendations to help enhance your mental performance:

   Sleep well, and sleep enough.

Healthy sleep habits maintain good circadian patterns, keeping the RAS awake at the right hours.

How long is enough? It depends on one's age. The recommended sleep length for adolescents is 8-10 hours. Younger children may sleep longer. Adults must get 7-9 hours of sleep, but advanced age may involuntarily shorten sleep.

Some sleep hygiene tips include:

  • Having dinner early—a bloated tummy is uncomfortable and likely to keep you awake
  • Turning off everything that emits light, including electronic gadgets—lights in the dark interfere with our body clock
  • Training yourself to sleep at the same time every night—this will be hard at first, but it will get easier as your plastic brain adjusts
  • Take a hot shower before bedtime and sleep in a cool room—the temperature drop soothes the senses and lulls the RAS to sleep

   Minimize sedatives

Over-the-counter drugs, like some anti-allergy and cough medicines, can cause drowsiness. Worse, the feeling may linger for a day or two among sensitive people. If you are allergy-prone, check your medicine's label to make sure that it is not sedating. Eliminating these substances from your system helps improve your alertness and focus.

Some drugs essential to treatment can cause drowsiness. Seizure medicines, for example, increase GABA potency, that's why they're effective. However, they can also put patients to sleep. We would never advise these individuals to skip their medications, as safer methods can improve their concentration. Even then, always talk to your doctor before considering any alternative methods of boosting your concentration.

   Watch what you eat

A balanced diet ensures adequate supplies of brain structure building blocks and neurotransmitter ingredients. If you want to maintain a sharp focus, feed your brain what it needs.

What comprises a healthy diet? The HHS explains what it is in its dietary guidelines. Essentially, a variety of greens, legumes, grains, fruits, protein sources and healthy oils make up a good diet.

   Feed your brain what it needs.

A balanced diet promotes cardiovascular health. But did you know that you could tweak a heart-healthy diet to make it brain-healthy, too?

Studies show that brain-healthy diets improve mental concentration and delay age-associated cognitive decline. One example of a brain-healthy regimen is the MIND diet, which combines a wide variety of nutrient-packed foods that help build and protect important brain structures.

For more information about brain-healthy diets, check out our brain food diet guide.

    Avoid foods that can devastate your neurons.

Substances present abundantly in the standard American diet can diminish brain function both in the short- and long-term.

  • Simple sugars and refined carbohydrates give you a temporary energy boost, but the ensuing crash can make you drowsy and lose concentration. Chronic excess leads to type 2 diabetes mellitus, which destroys neurons and puts people at risk for stroke.
  • Saturated fats, trans- fats and cholesterol promote inflammation and eventually clog the blood vessels. These events reduce blood flow to the brain, impairing alertness and focus. They also put people at risk for stroke.
  • Sodium in table salt is associated with increased hypertension risk. Hypertension causes narrowing of the blood vessels, reducing oxygen in the brain. Uncontrolled hypertension can also lead to a mental condition known as "vascular dementia."

You can read about the recommended daily allowances for these substances from our brain diet guide.


   Boost your concentration with brain supplements.

Success-driven individuals may sometimes feel that they're not getting as many nutrients in their diet. Even after trying other natural remedies, they may still feel stressed or energy-drained after a day's work.

Luckily for us, science has made it possible to produce supplements that can safely and naturally invigorate the brain. Brain Assist is one such example, as it has vitamin C, curcumin, alpha-glycerophosphocholine, omega-3 oils, trans-resveratrol, and uridine, all of which are powerful mental focus boosters because they help fill in nutritional gaps.

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   Drink enough water.

Adequate hydration helps ensure electrolyte level stability and alertness.

What is the right amount of water, though? The traditional advice is 8 glasses a day, but people may need more or less than this, depending on their physical activity and other factors.

For temperate countries like the US, adequate daily levels are 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women. However, you can increase or decrease your intake depending on your need. Indicators of sufficient hydration are having light yellow urine and not feeling thirsty.

   De-stress yourself..

Demanding lifestyles can take a lot from you, mentally and emotionally. Social media and the news just seem to make things worse.

Challenges are easier to solve when your mind is calm and focused. Relax and let go of psychological clutter. Learn to delegate tasks. Disconnect from all media for a while.

You can also try natural de-stressing fixes. Some activities that you can do anytime anywhere are deep breathing, stretching and listening to good music. To take it one step further, make time for yoga, tai-chi or meditation.

   Minimize your toxic exposures.

Reducing contact with environmental pollutants will protect your cells from poisonous damage. It will refresh you physically, emotionally and mentally. There are tons you can do to avoid pollution's health effects, starting with the following:

  • Avoid or quit smoking--nicotine may be a stimulant, but the hazards of cigarette smoke far outweigh this benefit
  • Walk or ride a bicycle or public vehicle when taking a trip--to help lessen auto emissions. Walking and bicycling's physical and mental benefits are widely documented.
  • Avoid burning trash, paper, plastic and other materials--burning worsens air pollution, which can trigger asthmatic attacks, unleash carcinogens and other poisons, cause eye and throat irritation, etc.
  • Plant trees--they help us by using up carbon dioxide and producing oxygen
  • Visit the countryside more often if you live in the city--the countryside is much quieter and cleaner. It not only keeps you away from environmental toxins, but it can also alleviate stress.
  • Clean your surroundings--get rid of germs and harmful substances that can make you sick and lose your focus.
  • Proper nutrition and hydration--healthy food has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances that protect you from environmental poisons. Drinking adequate amounts of water helps you quickly eliminate waste. Supplement your diet with the toxin-combating nutrients curcumin, trans-resveratrol, omega-3 oils, uridine and vitamin C for added protection.
  • Limit your alcohol intake, and preferably, choose the brain-friendly kind. Alcohol can mess up your coordination, alertness and focus. Habitual heavy drinking can lead to permanent brain damage, manifesting as disorientation, forgetfulness, hallucinations, incoordination and visual problems. Alcohol withdrawal can lead to deadly seizures. The recommended alcohol limit for women is one drink a day, and for men, it is two. And choose red wine, because it is rich in the brain protectant trans-resveratrol.

   Take your medications as ordered.

Manage your medical condition well by maintaining a good diet, drinking enough water and taking your medications as scheduled. Your mental function improves when you have your condition under control.

   Stay physically active.

Exercise optimizes brain blood flow. It has also been shown to enhance neurogenesis, neuroplasticity and astrocyte activity. Increased hippocampal volume and improved memory were observed in a group of elderly women taking regular dance classes for 18 months. Various other studies also prove that exercise boosts memory and mental concentration.

If you're already working out regularly, you may simply continue your exercise regimen. But if you’re not currently on one, you may try the following joint-friendly routines:

  • Pilates: Do twice-weekly, hour-long workouts consisting of 10 minutes of warm-up exercises, 35 minutes of Pilates and 15 minutes of cool-down exercises.
  • Tai chi or brisk walking: Done for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Spend 10 minutes each on warm-up and cool-down exercises.
  • Moderately paced swimming: Done for 45-60 minutes, 2-5 times a week. Again, spend 10 minutes each on warm-up and cool-down exercises.

These routines help enhance mental function and delay cognitive decline among healthy adults. However, make

   Exercise your brain.

Finally, brain games are time-tested tools for sharpening the mind and delaying brain aging.

Board games, card games, puzzles and brain training apps like Luminosity and Nintendo Brain Age are all associated with cognitive enhancement across different age groups. Evidence shows that long-term engagement in these activities positively impacts reasoning skills, verbal skills, executive functioning, memory, attention and processing speed.

Additionally, video gaming has been linked to cognitive and emotional well-being among healthy adults.

So choose a fun brain game to play everyday to keep brain fog away.

While these recommendations are supported by scientific evidence, they may not work the same way for everyone. However, these approaches do not have any negative side effects, so you can safely try any of them to see which one works best. If the problem persists despite these remedies, let your doctor know just to make sure that nothing is seriously wrong.

Conclusion

Mental concentration can be a huge determinant of success. Optimal concentration comes from the perfectly coordinated efforts of the different regions of a healthy brain. We have shown you the various factors affecting mental focus and how supporting them can improve it. Our recommendations here do not require permanent surgeries, high priced procedures, or superhuman commitment, and so we encourage you to try them and see what works. Cheers to you!

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Contents

Early Childhood Brain Development Facts Parent/Child Relationship Impact on Brain DevelopmentChild Brain Development Timeline(Brain) Food Matters Bridging the Nutritional Gap for the Brain With Rich Supplements Start Making a Difference Now!Help Build Those Synaptic Connections

Pediatricians often tell new parents that their child's brain is like a sponge from the minute they are born. They soak up everything that's going on around them. Neuroscience research has shown the early years are especially crucial for brain development & kids focus. This period lays the foundation for who that child will become.

From birth to age 5, a child's brain is growing at warp speed. Neurological and brain development in early childhood is shaped by every interaction children have. Even experiences that may seem insignificant to an adult, like meeting a new person, teach a child how to interact with the world around them. That’s because the brain’s size and shape are constantly changing in response to encounters during this period.

During the prenatal period, emphasis is put on genetics (nature). There’s no doubt genes are important. Genes are the blueprint of life. However, environmental stimuli (nurture) are just as important.

In fact, even when the blueprint isn’t great, if a child grows up in a nurturing environment it’ll have a positive impact on brain development. Attentive parenting and proper kids brain nutrition are fundamental factors for brain development & focus.

Age, Developmental Stage Stage of Cognitive Development Biological Changes in the Brain Milestones
Birth Infancy Sensorimotor Stage
Babies are born with 100 billion neurons connected by 50 trillion synapses.
 
A neuron has an average of 2,500 synaptic connections at birth.
 
Cranial nerves are myelinated.
 
The brain reaches 25% of adult size.

Newborns have basic reflexes for survival, e. g. rooting, sucking, startle, grasp, etc.
0-2 years
The cerebellum and prefrontal cortex continue making new neurons.
 
Synaptic density is reduced to half by age 2.
 
Myelination continues and proceeds from the back to the front of the brain and from the center to the sides.
 
The brain reaches 50% of adult size at age 1.

Babies must establish trusting relationships with caregivers.
 
Motor development proceeds in descending fashion:
  • Raises head at 1 month
  • Sits without support at 6 months
  • Walks alone at 12 months
The baby explores the environment and learns from it
 
Starts building vocabulary
2-4 years
Toddlerhood
Pre-operational Stage
By age 2 or 3, each neuron has formed an average of 15,000 synapses.
 
A toddler’s brain has about 1 quadrillion synapses.
 
The brain grows to 80% of adult size.

Walks up and down the stairs unsupported
 
Hops and skips
 
Learns to speak in short sentences
 
Thinks in symbols, so Piaget called this sub-stage the “Symbolic Function Substage.” The child engages in role-playing and makes up imaginary friends.
4-7 years
Preschool Age

By age 5, the brain reaches 90% of adult size.

Self-care
 
Plays cooperatively with other children
 
Learns to play competitively
 
Learns to count, read, draw, write, recite the alphabet
 
Enters the Intuitive Thought Substage. The child develops primitive reasoning, asking many questions and wanting to know why things are the way they are.
7-9 years
School Age
Concrete Operational Stage
Frontal and temporal lobes grow significantly.

Gross and fine motor skills are more developed
 
The child’s world view becomes more realistic and less fantasy-oriented
 
Begins formal schooling
 
Cognitive functions are more efficient. Arithmetic, word recall and reading become easier.
 
Develops inductive reasoning
9-11 years
Pre-adolescence

The frontal lobe reaches adult size and neuronal density.
 
Sex hormones increase in response to pituitary and hypothalamic stimulation.

Growth spurt starts
 
Secondary sexual characteristics start to form
 
The child becomes aware of body changes
 
Understands from other people’s perspective
11-14 years
Early Adolescence
Formal Operational Stage
Significant synaptic pruning and rewiring take place due to marked hormonal changes.
 
The limbic system develops faster than the prefrontal cortex.
 
Components of the limbic system:

  • Amygdala—emotions
  • Hippocampus--memory
  • Hypothalamus—regulates bodily functions and is influenced by the emotions

More conscious of body image and looks
 
Starts to be influenced by peers
 
Wide mood swings
 
Much longer attention span
 
Solves more complex problems
 
Develops abstract thinking and deductive reasoning
15-17 years
Middle Adolescence

Myelination of the brain is complete except in the prefrontal lobe.

May engage in risky behaviors
 
Becomes romantically interested
 
Parent-child clashes may occur more often
 
Height of identity crisis. The child is less influenced by family and more influenced by peers.
 
Begins planning for the future
18-21 years
Late Adolescence

Prefrontal maturation picks up and involves:

  • Gray matter volume reduction
  • Synaptic pruning
  • White matter (myelin) growth

Parent-child conflict resolves
 
The young person becomes more self-assured
 
Experiences more cognitive and emotional growth
22 years onwards
Adulthood

The hippocampus continues to make new brain cells but at a slower rate.
 
As many as 500 trillion synapses are present.
 
Prefrontal maturation continues until early adulthood.
 
Good nutrition, exercise and constant mental stimulation prevent brain aging.

Gets into a serious relationship
 
Raises own family
 
May pursue graduate school, get a job or both
 
Builds a career
 
Rational thinking develops with prefrontal maturation

Early Childhood Brain Development Facts

Did you know a baby is born with billions of neurons? Even more incredible are the trillions of neural connections that link those neurons! Those connections, called synapses, are the foundation on which the rest of the brain will develop. They are formed every time a child experiences something.

Babies are so small and fragile when they enter the world, yet miraculous things are taking place right below the surface of their soft, little heads.

A baby’s brain contains 100 billion neurons when they are born. No wonder moms are tired during pregnancy, their bodies are making all those! While some areas of the brain, like the cerebellum and the prefrontal cortex continue making neurons after birth, what really matters are the connections that carry the information children have gathered up to the nerve cells in the different areas of the brain. For example, when a parent picks up their baby a connection is formed.

When a baby enters the world, they have 50 trillion neural connections, also known as synapses. By the time they reach adulthood they’ll have around 500 trillion.

As a child grows, their brains are rapidly developing new neural connections. We're not talking about 100 new synapses a day, either.

“A toddler’s brain is forming more than 1 million connections every second.”

DR. COVER THREE

Research shows that they’ll have roughly 15,000 neural connections per neuron by the time they are age two or three. They started out with approximately 2,500 per neuron. In total, a toddler’s busy brain has about 1,000 trillion synapses.

About those synapses - the neural connections are like interstates carrying the knowledge to and from different areas of the brain. Over time, the brain sheds the neural connections that it isn’t using.

Neuroscientists call that synaptic pruning.

Depending on their experience, the connections formed and kept will determine if they're going to be intelligent, loving, kind, and empathetic, as opposed to ignorant, mean, and selfish. That is why parenting is so critical for kids' brain development & focus.

The relationships kids have and their experiences during the first 3 years of life will have a profound impact on the rest. Even if a child doesn’t specifically remember this part of their life, their brain’s connections do. All this neuron generation, synapse pruning and removal requires energy and nutrients. That is where optimal nutrition comes in. Helping kids get the proper nutrition can be difficult when they are picky eaters and so modern food companies have made herculean efforts to make food entertaining and sweet, which is not always ideal for youngsters.

The Standard American Diet has been shown to fall short when it comes to providing kids with the proper brain nutrition leading many parents to look to supplements to bridge the gap.

Parent/Child Relationship Impact on Brain Development

child development

Imagine a person planted an acorn and grew an oak sapling. The young tree is growing just fine but then the person starts neglecting it. Over the next few years, the tree is given minimal attention and care. When it grows into a young tree, it’s not very attractive. Its leaves are thin and its trunk is scrawny.

Next door to that person’s house, a neighbor also planted an acorn. They watered it every day, fed it plant food, and nurtured it with love and attention. Now it’s a beautiful tree with vibrant, full leaves. The trunk is sturdy and it’s providing plenty of shade for its caregiver.

Now, imagine those trees are humans.

A child who is well-loved, cared for, and fed a rich, balanced diet, has a far better chance of growing into a well-adjusted, successful adult, compared to one who is not

As mentioned, a child’s neural connections are rapidly developing. If a parent is kind and happy for the most part, their toddler is growing "kind-and-happy" connections. As the child ages, those synapses get stronger and healthier. Those connections will follow them to adulthood and they'll know how to build strong, healthy relationships.

The flip side can create children who will have a much harder time fostering healthy relationships in adulthood, or maintaining focus. They could also be less likely to be successful if their parents failed to create a healthy learning environment.

Child Brain Development Timeline

Neurological and brain development in the early years of a child's life occurs very quickly. The brain is creating and pruning connections rapidly. It’s not all happening simultaneously though. Brain development stages differ depending on the age of a child. For example, a 3-month-old baby isn’t going to form the connections that allow them to comprehend abstract thinking. They’re still working on basic motor skills. The abstract thinking comes after their new neurons are built!

There are four important children brain development stages according to French psychologist Jean Piaget:

1  Sensorimotor Stage (birth to 2 years)

During the sensorimotor stage, children learn about the world using their senses. They touch, smell, lick, bite, and see their way around their world. That's why babies are constantly putting items in their mouths.

When a child is born, their brain is about 25% of the size of an adult brain. It will double in size during the first year of life. By the second stage of development, the brain is roughly 80% of the size of an adult's. Synaptic density reduces to half by age two.

That's why it's critical that parents, caregivers, and others treat toddlers kindly and show them love. There is no “do-over” for this crucial stage of brain development.

2  Preoperational Stage (Ages 2 to 7)

Cognitive growth is still happening very fast during this stage. By the age of 5, a child's brain will be 90% of the size of an adult's.

Children will usually learn how to communicate in whatever language they will primarily speak during this critical developmental phase. It's the best time to teach them multiple languages because it's easier for a child to learn.

A child will also learn how to think symbolically during the preoperational stage. The ability to focus, short-term memory, long-term memory, logic, and reasoning are all developing during these years.

3  Concrete Operational Stage (Ages 7 to 11)

Children are more aware of other people's feelings during this stage. They learn to apply logical thought to objects. The neural connections for abstract thinking are not developed during this stage. That's why kids have a hard time understanding the long-term repercussions of their actions.

4  Formal Operational Stage (Ages 11 to adulthood)

The brain isn't fully developed until it is about 25 years old. Thinking becomes much more sophisticated after age 11 as the experiences a child has strengthen the synapses developed early on.

During this stage, a child learns how to think abstractly. They hone their problem-solving skills and the type of person they're going to become is made clear.

Get your kid the best brain supplements out there

(Brain) Food Matters

Nutrition and healthy brain development go hand-in-hand during the early years of a child's life. If the right brain nutrition for kids is missing, a child's brain will not grow properly. That's why you'll notice many baby formula and food are enriched with nutrients like iron.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Medicina have found that various nutrients support specific brain functions and development. Vitamin deficiency could have a profound and lasting negative impact on a brain.

vegetable-graphic

According to Harvard Health, the first 1,000 days of a child's life are particularly important. The brain is busy creating its neural connections between the billions of neurons floating around in there.

If a child is fed unhealthy food devoid of balanced nutrients, their brain will not be able to function properly or achieve its true potential. The child’s ability to focus will decrease and the important neural paths the brain is creating will slow. A deficiency can also affect the size and complexity of cells.

Bridging the Nutritional Gap for the Brain With Rich Supplements

In order to support kids' brain development & focus, some parents may turn to nutritional supplements formulated for kids' brains. Ideally, getting everything a kid needs from whole foods would be great, but the amount of nutrients that the brain needs are hard to obtain from the standard American diet consistently. If mom and dad have a picky eater on their hands, feeding the brain properly without supplementation is near impossible.

kids nutritional brain boost

Supplements, like our Kids Brain Boost smoothie, allows parents to sneak brain foods for kids into their diets without the squabbling. Busy parents can give their toddler one nutrient-packed snack that will promote healthy brain growth. If they have an older child, supplementing their diet with healthy snacks that allow them to sneak their vitamins in will help their child focus and get better grades.

What should they be eating?

Well, there are specific ingredients proven to promote healthy brain growth in children.

Omega 3s

Omega 3s are thought to be the building blocks of neurological development. Kids who get the proper amount of omega 3s are at a decreased risk of developmental delay. They often have better communication skills and fewer behavioral problems.

Researchers have also found kids who eat foods rich in omega 3s have improved cognitive function and development.

Transresveratrol

This nutrient makes sure that the blood vessels in a child's body are flexible and strong. By helping the blood move through the child's body safely, the brain is able to build the connections it needs for the future.

Iron

Iron is extremely important brain food for kids. The body uses iron to develop the central nervous system and help a brain function. Neurodevelopmental studies found the nutrient helps develop neurotransmitter systems, as well. If a child does not get the proper amount of iron, it can lead to lifelong neurological delays.

Uridine

This is another essential nutrient for brain development in the early years. Uridine helps with membrane synthesis in the brain. Combined with choline and the omega 3 fatty acid DHA, uridine helps determine how many synapses will grow in the brain.

Vitamin C

This antioxidant helps with many bodily functions including cognitive function and the growth of connective tissues and blood vessels.

Protein

Brains need protein to produce neurotransmitters that will carry messages to the different parts of the brain using the connections developed in a child's early life.

Curcumin

Curcumin boosts the growth hormone responsible for memory and learning. The nutrient also supports a healthy response to inflammation, including inflammation in the brain.

Choline

If a child is not getting enough choline, brain development will be impacted. It is an essential vitamin for human beings. Research from Oregon State shows that this neurotransmitter is involved in memory and muscle movement. Choline deficiency could also lead to cognitive deficits.

Start Making a Difference Now!

First and foremost, the most important thing parents, caretakers, and other attentive family members can do to help children's brain development is to show them love. Hug kids and spend time with them. Encourage kids while they are trying and learning, especially in their early years.


Nourish  Nourish Your Kid with Rich Brain Food

We are what we eat. Provide your child with a balanced diet and supplement the key brain nutrients that are hard to obtain at ideal amounts from regular foods. You’ll supply the building blocks for a brain that will help behavior, focus, and grades.


be understanding   Be Understanding

Understand that children who are 2 years old have no self-control and it's not on purpose. Their brains haven't developed those connections yet. Patience will go a long way and all of the affection adults show children while they are young pays off long-term.


Adults   Read, Read, Read

Adults should read to children every day. Studies have found that children whose parents read to them regularly as babies have better vocabularies and higher language skills than kids who were not read to. If a parent reads five books a day to their child, a study found their kids will have heard 1.4 million more words than a child who wasn't read to.


Play games   Play Games

Parents should play games with their children in the early years to teach them critical thinking skills. Researchers suggest reading to kids and then connecting the book to an experience the child has had to help them draw parallels. Mom and dad can then play a game with them and have the child name some differences between their experience and the book's story.


Get down   Get Down on the Floor

Adults need to get down and play with their children. Even if it's just to help them build blocks or fit shapes in the holes in a bucket. Activities like these are great for cognitive function. They also give parents an opportunity to connect with their children on a very basic level.

The child will see that mom and dad are interested in their life and it'll help them form healthy neural connections.

Introduce babies   Introduce Babies to New Things

Taking a baby out of the house and letting them use their senses to explore the world around them will optimize brain development. They should play in the grass and grab it with both of their hands.

Parents should bring their little ones to nature and let them pick up acorns or crunch leaves with their feet. Take their toddler to the beach and let them run through the sand and feel it between their toes.

All of these experiences will help their brains develop.

Respond   Respond to Your Baby Kindly

Every parent gets frustrated occasionally, but how a parent responds to their child's stress will stick with them forever. Babies cry because it is the only way they can communicate. Go ahead and pick them up when they're upset. When a parent comforts their child, healthy brain connections are formed.


speak  Speak to Them Often

Parents should speak to their babies all the time, even when the child can't talk back. When they are giving their child a bath they should tell the baby what they are doing. If they take their toddler for a walk, mom and dad should point to trees, leaves, grass, people, benches, etc.

If the baby lives in a multilingual household, parents should speak to their toddlers in all of the languages they speak. That helps the child form the connections in the language center of the brain.


Neglecting   Neglecting a Child Is Mentally Devastating

Prolonged neglect leads to problems with language skills, poor grades, an inability to focus and poor relationships with peers. A child whose parents don’t spend time with them, or sit down to eat together, doesn’t grow the important “love-and-nurture” connections in their brain. Busy and neglectful parents are literally causing insufficient neurological development in their child. That trauma will stick with a child for the rest of their life.


Discipline   Discipline Is Important

Parents should be authoritative and set expectations for children, but not be overly harsh. Understanding healthy boundaries helps the kids develop connections in their brains. Failing to build a child’s discipline is just as damaging as being unkind, but it impacts different synaptic connections.

Help Build Those Synaptic Connections

Every second of a child's life is impacting their brain development. Each experience is as important as the last and all of the moments are creating vital neural connections in their brain. One million connections every single second are formed.

Parenting is critical from the first moment of a child's life. Equally as crucial is the food the parent gives their little one. Brain nutrition for kids will impact brain development in a profound way. If a child is not eating the right nutrients, or not eating them amounts, their brains will not get close to their true potential. Those critical synaptic connections will not form and the rest of the child's life will suffer the effects.

These early years are the most influential on kids' brain development & focus. Think of a child's brain like it's a house. If the foundation is laid properly, the rest of the construction is easier to complete and more resilient.

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