BrightStar’s technology aims to use the brain’s plasticity to promote the retraining of the brain through strengthening the synapses needed to promote language and literacy skills.
The brain grows with astonishing rapidity during the first few years of an infant’s life. As each neuron (nerve cell) grows to maturity, it sends out many branches. These branches are known as axons and dendrites. Axons send information in an outgoing direction and dendrites receive incoming information.
These branches mean that the number of connections, or synaptic contacts, is increased. In these synapses lie the connections between neurons.
At the time of birth, one neuron located in the cerebral cortex will contain some 2,500 synapses. According to Gopnick, by the age of 2 or 3 years, the baby will have developed around 15,000 synapses for each neuron.
By the time the brain has reached adulthood, this number will have been halved. As the brain ages, old connections are severed and discarded by a process known as synaptic pruning. This pruning helps rid our brains of its weaker connections as stronger connections are retained and even bolstered.
The experiences of a person will determine which brain connections will be made stronger and which will be pruned. Those connections that are brought into play with great frequency are preserved. A neuron must be used in order to survive. Neurons that are not being used will die through a procedure known as apoptosis.
Synaptic pruning helps shape the brain in much the same way as a gardener prunes a bush or tree to give it its desirable form. It is the brain’s plasticity that enables this process of growing and pruning the synaptic connections of the brain, allowing it to better fit its environment.
BrightStar’s technology aims to use the brain’s plasticity to promote the retraining of the brain through strengthening synapses needed to promote language and literacy skills.
Sources for this article & quotes
- The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind (1999), Gopnik, Alison, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 978-0688177881