Chapter 44 CHILD BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
THE CHILD’S DEVELOPING BRAIN-MIND
“Because emotions are fundamentally linked to appraisal-arousal mechanisms in both the right and left hemispheres, they influence all (siegel/tdm/185) aspects of cognition, from perception to rational decision making. (186)”
“Attachment experiences early in life appear to have direct influences upon various basic processes, including forms of memory, narrative, emotional regulation, and interpersonal behavior. (siegel/tdm/186)”
“No formal studies exist at the present time examining how these early emotional relationships may preferentially influence the function and development of each hemisphere. Given that studies do suggest that the left and right hemispheres may experience different aspects of emotional response, we can ask how intimate affect attunement – the resonance of states of mind between child and caregiver – might influence the two hemispheres in unique ways in the different attachment relationships. The proposal being made here is that the different patterns of attachment relationships can be understood in part as differentially involving communication between one hemisphere of the parent and the similar hemisphere of the child. The conceptual basis for this proposal is that the more mature adult parent’s state of mind will tend to recruit similar brain processes in the child. If this occurs repeatedly and during the crucial early years of development, it is plausible that these shared states may become engrained within the child. (siegel/tdm/186)”
“…studies suggest that the brain is capable of devoting its circuitry to alternative sensory modes depending on stimulus input, and that the timing of exposure to stimuli has a direct influence on how “plastic” the brain is in adapting its circuitry. We can further propose that the social nature of information processing – the form in which interpersonal communication takes place – may be an important determinant in brain differentiation….Could it be that forms of emotional communication – or the lack of them – that involve nonverbal aspects of communication can…directly shape brain development in …lateralized ways by experience-dependent developmental processes…?” (siegel/tdm/187)
“There are developmental phases in which primarily one, then the other, hemisphere grows and expands. In the first few years of life…the right hemisphere is both more active and growing more rapidly. After these first years, the left hemisphere becomes more dominant in activity and development. By the end of the third year of life, the corpus callosum allows for the transfer of information between the two hemispheres. But before this time, one can almost view the child as a “split-brain” subject, in which the world of words may often be quite separate from that of intense emotional reactions.
The mind is created from the whole brain within the activity of its disparate circuits and their interactions with each other….the intrinsic motive formation system may exist before the neocortical capacity to construct representations even begins. The developing mind of the child reflects the manner in which it is anatomically predisposed to processing information. After four years of age, children usually become much more facile at using words to describe their inner states and impulses. Preschools take advantage of this developmental capacity in helping children learn to socialize with their peers by utilizing language to express what they feel and want. Such accomplishments require the joint cooperation of both hemispheres and may not be possible at an earlier age in most children.” (siegel/tdm/193)
IMPORTANT TO NOTE
“the timing of experience, be (siegel/tdm/187) it optimal or traumatic, may have the largest impact on those parts of the brain that are in the most active phase of development. These are times of maximal opportunity as well as vulnerability….the brain may undergo a cycling of phases throughout childhood, in which one and then the other hemisphere is in an active phase of growth and development….[It is possible] that the correlation of overwhelming experiences with the natural oscillations in hemisphere maturation may lead to differing outcomes for development. (siegel/tdm/188)”
“The right hemisphere is dominant in its activity and development during the first three years of life. Children who experience severe emotional deprivation during this period may be at most risk of having losses in the structural components of their right hemispheres, especially in the region of the orbitofrontal cortex. This vulnerability may be understood as a function of the primary role of the right hemisphere in mediating the affect attunement that serves as a major form of connection and communication between the child and caregiver. This view also supports the notion that primary emotions, which give rise to vitality affects, may be more closely linked to right-hemisphere function.” (siegel/tdm/187)
“If a child has had little resonance of the activity of his right hemisphere with that of his caregivers during the first three years of life, an underdevelopment of that hemisphere’s functioning may result. Nonverbal communication, facial expressions, subtleties in tone of voice, and emotional attunements will all be minimal in the “experience-dependent maturation” of this child’s right hemisphere. These are the experiential food for the right hemisphere during early development, as well as in adult life….
“…certain attachment dyads do not foster the development of elements of the “theory-of-mind” module of processing information….attachment has lateralized effects. We can propose that “reflective function,” in which the mind of one person is able to “mentalize” or create the mind of another, is probably dependent upon processes mediated primarily via the right hemisphere. The reflective function also serves as the substrate for self-awareness and the ability to process information about the self and the self with others.
Recognizing facial emotional expression, having cognitive representations of others’ minds, having self-other relationship representations, and having the capacity to respond to the mental state of others can all be proposed to be mediated by the social-emotional processing of the right hemisphere.
However, the integration of these modules of processing into a coherently functioning reflective mode may require a well-developed coordination of right-hemisphere and left-hemisphere processing….interpersonal experiences within early caregiver-child relationships can facilitate, or impair, the development of such reflective capacity. (siegel/tdm/188)”
“Adults who have insecure states of mind with respect to attachment…reveal, within their [life]…narratives, frames of mind in which…integration of [their] hemispheres has not been achieved. Such a restricted parental state of mind may impair the parent’s ability to achieve resonance of states with the child. Specifically, the parent will be unable to foster the activity of each hemisphere and will have difficulty enabling the child to achieve some form of interhemisphere integration.
“…the coherent [life]…narratives of securely attached adults reveal a coordinated functioning of the “mentalizing” right hemisphere and the “interpreting” left….the integration of right- and left-hemisphere representational processes and motivational states leads to a “bilateral form of coherence” and can be revealed within coherent life narratives.” (siegel/tdm/189)
“The right hemisphere has a nonverbal “language” of its own, focusing on the gist, context, or social meaning of experiences. Just as the left hemisphere requires exposure to linguistically based language in order to grow properly, one can propose that the right hemisphere may require emotional stimulation from the environment in order to develop properly….communication between caregiver and infant shapes the ways in which the child’s developing mind learns to process information….emotional communication and affective attunement become the medium in which the child’s cognitive capacities develop.” (siegel.tdm/189)
“As Aitken and Trevarthen have stated, “Human cognition developments, and their pathologies, are regulated, from birth, by highly specific motives in the child’s brain for engaging with the motives in other brains. Emotions constitute an innate system b which functions of attending, purpose, and learning may be coordinated between subjects.” (see #54, footnote, underlining mine/siegel/tdm/189)
(what do they mean by MOTIVES?)
Also by Aitken and Trevarthen (footnote referenced #56)
“There is abundant evidence now that neonatal brains are embarking on changes in organization that are highly responsive to stimulation from caregivers. The effects of this experience, while demonstrating the adaptive plasticity of the newborn brain, also five proof of highly elaborate and highly selective systems in the infant for engaging with the processes that motivate expressive behaviors in caretaking individuals.” From (siegel/tdm/190)”
“In other words, the infant both responds to the world of others and plays an active role in influencing how others respond. This process can be seen as a form of “recruitment,” in which neuronal processes selectively activate patterns of firing of other neural pathways – in this case, within other brains.
“Recall that when neuronal circuits become activated, they create and reinforce their connections with each other. With this in mind, we can see why the avoidantly attached child’s conscious experience of life, his subjective sense of daily living, may be quite different from that of a securely attached child whose right hemisphere has been encouraged to develop. Once established, such a pattern in neuronal activations will tend to recruit similar patterns in the future. Within the avoidantly attached individual, there may be a disconnection in the integrative functioning of the two hemispheres that parallels the emotional disconnection with the attachment relationship. Studies of avoidant mother-child pairs have shown that words are used without correlation with nonverbal components of communication. Such an interactive disconnection becomes repeated within a child’s own mind. In this way, one hemisphere may begin to act as a autonomous subsystem of the brain. At the extreme, one might predict that such a person may feel more comfortable with abstract ideas and the sharing of intellectual views about the world than with the intense emotional exchanges involving the sensation of “feeling felt” or the content of others’ minds. Over time, the relative dominance of one hemisphere over the other and the functional isolation of the lateralized modes of processing may begin to dominate the subjective experience of life for that individual.” (siegel/tdm/190)”
(I think this also happens between adults in relationships, like my mother and father….where neither of their hemispheres were properly developed and they relied on the others’ half of a brain….almost like Ernie and I, except I know he has emotions….he chooses to keep them “out of the picture.” Sad)
“…certain attachment experiences preferentially reinforce the development of one hemi- (siegel/tdm/190) sphere over another and lead to impaired bilateral functioning…(Siegel/tdm/191)”
(But there are distortions if this happens – in the functioning of BOTH hemispheres! Neither one of them is correct. I think of the strange language my mother uses in my baby book….strange perspectives and points of view…talking for “little me” and even talking for the tricycle?!? There’s more to this….)
IMPORTANT – ATTACHMENT DEVELOPMENT WINDOWS
“The repeated activation of specific neuronal pathways reinforces the strength of connections between groups of neurons. Those neuronal circuits that are not activated do not get reinforced and can die away. Some researchers suggest that there are “windows of opportunity” during which time activation of specific functions is essential for continued development in that area….infants who have no attachment relationships (for example, who are in orphanages with so few staff members that attachments do not develop) before the end of the third year of life, at the latest, may have extreme difficulty forming attachments later in life. The motivational system of attachment – its circuits and potential for development – may have died away and be unavailable for maturation in the future.
“How “plastic” is the brain after the early years of childhood? For example, if it is true that certain attachment experiences lead to the underdevelopment of the right-hemisphere processing of nonverbal aspects of emotional signals, how much can new experiences alter such a condition in an adult? Research on humans has provided no data as yet to answer this question. Research on other primates, however, suggests that there is far more plasticity in the brain of adults than was previously believed to be possible….Even in an adult…the brain appears to be capable to some degree of responding to changes in experience with further development of brain structure and function.
“Another reason for optimism about catalyzing further development in adults is that some psychiatric disturbances may be due to impairments in integrative functioning among widely distributed, sometimes bilateral processes. These impairments may be due to the failure to develop associate neural pathways linking relatively (siegel/tdm/194) autonomous modules of processing. However, the creation of new neural integrative links may be a learning process that remains possible into adulthood….issue of emergent properties of neural systems in development….Our brains may retain the ability to continually reshape, in some fashion, emergent properties that allow us to learn and grow with new experiences. (siegel/tdm/195)”
“The blockage of right-hemisphere processes from consciousness and from engagements in interactions with others may be an adaptive “defense” against feeling anxious and out of control. Moving toward the left hemisphere’s more detail oriented, routinized, top-down processing and its “even-keel” emotional style may be a mental system that is eagerly welcomed if the world is otherwise filled with uncertainty and excessive over stimulation. Such may be the case for individuals with certain highly reactive temperamental styles or for those raised in chaotic homes. (siegel.tdm/195)”
(And I used to be accused by therapists of “intellectualizing!” Maybe they should have left well enough alone! I am nothing but disorganized emotion now — intense, sad, over reactive and overwhelming – Ernie is the opposite, but I trust that in him, and long to be with him because it helped me so that I could feel peaceful – I miss him – and I don’t know if I can get any “better” by myself. I do not belong anywhere, I am lost, and cannot “grasp” the future.)