The early childhood brain

From birth to our early teens, we have far more links between brain cells. The excess brain mass is very adaptable and allows children to learn very quickly.

But the adaptability comes with a price. The large and complex network in the brain is still busy growing and not as capable of forming memories efficiently as in adulthood. Consequently, long-term memories created in our first three years of life are the least stable and prone to be forgotten as we age.

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Childhood amnesia

On average, people’s memories stretch back no farther than the age of three and a half.

New science suggests that when we move into adulthood, the brain must let go of much of our childhood.

Even if we do have a few distinct memories that survive the cycles of growth and decay, we can never fully trust them. Some may be entirely fabricated.

The research demonstrated that our earliest memories are a blend of real recollections, stories we copied from others, and imaginary scenes dreamt up by the subconscious.

  • In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud gave childhood amnesia its name. The most commonly accepted explanation for childhood amnesia was that children couldn't form stable memories until age 7 - even though evidence for this idea was lacking.
  • In the late 1980s, experiments revealed that children three and younger keep their memories, although it is limited. At 6 months of age, infants' memories last for a day, and by age 2, for a year. At around age 6, children begin to forget many of their earliest memories.

Studies revealed that the circuits of neurons that store our earliest memories are not eliminated by neurogenesis—the growth of whole new neurons - but that they are wholly restructured, making it difficult to recall first memories.

This means that some childhood memories are missing while others persist in a patchy way.

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Childhood Memories

Memory is essentially an activation of neural networks inside the brain, which are dynamic in nature.

We can form memories as infants, but we do not have the ability to store them until we are at least two years of age. It is also a fact that we cannot remember being babies. According to studies, if we have early memories of us being infants, it is likely that they are fabricated memories.

Can you trust your earliest childhood memories?

bbc.com

As babies grow older, they start to incorporate other behaviours, such as hugging and gifting, that help to create a bond between themselves and potential caregivers.

The cute looks may draw them in, but their social actions keep others interested. These are the behaviours that convince Mando to care, protect, and make Baby Yoda part of their tribe.

What Makes Baby Yoda So Lovable? - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus

nautil.us

The different kinds of memories

We hold on to different kinds of memories.

  • Short-term memories last seconds to hours and long-term memories last for years.
  • We also have a working memory, which allows us to keep something in mind for a limited time by repeating it.
  • Declarative memories are memories you experience consciously, like facts or "common knowledge."
  • Nondeclaritive memory unconsciously builds up. These include procedural memories, such as riding a bicycle or playing the piano.

Human memory: How we make, remember, and forget memories

nationalgeographic.com

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